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Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Sidney Crosby gets no-contact OK

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Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has been cleared to participate in the team's morning skate on game days, but general manager Ray Shero made it known that nothing else should be read into that promising development.

"It's a natural return for his progression here. His rehab has been ongoing," Shero said Wednesday during media availability in Pittsburgh. "He's doing well with it, but at the same time, as a manager, I have no expectations of him coming back and playing in the regular season. That's not going to happen."

Crosby, who has been out since Jan. 6 with a concussion, is traveling with the team to Florida and will partake in the morning skate Thursday prior to the Penguins' game against Tampa Bay.

"It's pretty cool," goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. "It seems like he's been having fun, smiling. Hopefully he just keeps getting better and he joins the team whenever he's healthy."

Crosby is not cleared for full practices, including contact drills, with his teammates yet. Morning skates do not involve contact.

"I talked to Sid again today because I wanted him to hear from me: There's no pressure from me or the team nor his teammates to try and push this thing through," Shero told ESPN.com. "That's why he's not going to play in the regular season, let's get that out of the way first."

Shero did not rule Crosby out of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but was cautious regarding that outlook as well.

"The playoffs are still two to three weeks away. I don't want to take away any hope from the players, but to return to game action in the Stanley Cup playoffs takes a certain level of fitness and game ready, and he is certainly not close to that at this point," Shero said.

Crosby took two blindside hits in a five-day span -- one was on Jan. 1 during the Winter Classic outdoor game in Pittsburgh, when he was hit by forward David Steckel, then with the Washington Capitals. The second was Jan. 5, against the Tampa Bay Lightning, when defenseman Victor Hedman drilled him. Suffering from headaches, fatigue and nausea, he was not allowed on the ice at all.

He returned to skating for the first time March 14, but has been doing only solo drills and stickwork. Shero emphasized that Crosby might not skate every day, and is doing off-ice exercises as well.

"I just wanted to make sure there's not any miscommunication here as to where we're coming from. There's no strategic plan from myself and [coach] Dan Bylsma to reintroduce him in our lineup at any certain day or time," Shero said. "This is a complex injury. I think we all know that. I think we're happy as to where he is in terms of getting back on the ice. His off-ice program is continuing, which is good. That's really where we are."

Information from ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun and The Associated Press was used in this report.