Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who was leading the NHL in scoring when a concussion knocked him out of the lineup on Jan. 6, said Thursday he expects to return this season but his progress is coming “at a slower rate than I’d want it to be,” and he could offer no prediction for his return.
Crosby, lightly tanned from a brief visit to a warmer climate, visited the Penguins’ locker room after their morning skate. He will miss his 15th game Thursday, when the Penguins face the Kings at the Consol Energy Center.
"There’s no timetable whatsoever," he said. "It’s impossible to kind of gauge or really put a number of days or a timetable."
Crosby, who took blows to the head in consecutive games on Jan. 1 and Jan. 5, has not been exercising and is not yet symptom-free.
“I’m getting better. It’s just slow. That’s the tough part. The progression, everything is improving, but it’s just at a slower rate than I’d want it to be,” he said. “But that’s kind of out of my control. You just kind of hope that with time and hopefully the quicker the better.”
His absence has fueled endless speculation, including rumors that he might not return this season. “That could happen, but am I sitting here packing it in? No,” he said Thursday. “I hope I’m back and geez, I hope I finish the year, but that’s the thing with these things. You don’t know. There’s no timeframe, like I said.
“I’m expecting to play this year, so I’m sure there’s a thousand different things being said out there and that’s one of them, but I expect to be playing.”
But Crosby acknowledged being unsettled by the experience.
“It’s really scary. There’s not anything you can really compare it to, as far as being out, being away, how to deal with that. Probably going back to when I hurt my ankle,” he said, referring to an ankle sprain that cost him 21 games during the 2007-08 season. “I’m sure that helps me a bit, but this is a little different when you’re talking about your brain.
“It’s scary, but like I said to a certain extent or certain point there’s nothing you can do except give yourself a chance to heal and hope that it happens sooner rather than later.”
Leaving town and avoiding the daily inquiries about his status helped him, he said.
“It’s not the easiest thing every day coming in and hoping to be able do something,” he said. “It’s great that everyone asks how you’re doing, but I think it’s just a constant reminder of the fact that you’re not playing, that you’re injured, things like that. So sometimes it’s just kind of good to get away from that a bit and have the opportunity to see my parents and hang out with them for a bit. It was just more or less just to kind of get away from the everyday questions.”
Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, who suffered a concussion while with the Vancouver Canucks last season, went to rest at a remote spot to get away from noise and distractions while he healed. However, fellow defenseman Drew Doughty said he stayed around Los Angeles while recovering from a concussion that cost him six games earlier this season.
Doughty knows all too well what Crosby is going through.
“It’s a pretty frustrating time,” he said. “There’s not really anything you can do to get back quicker. There’s nothing you can do to make the healing process faster. It’s just all about rest.
“It’s a little boring just kind of sitting around, but that’s what you have to do. It [stinks] and I’m sure he’s pretty frustrated right now but hopefully he gets back soon.”
More on the Penguins and Kings coming soon.
-- Helene Elliott, in Pittsburgh
Photo: Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby. Credit: Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press.