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Update: Crosby returns to Pens practice

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A look at how Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins medical staff handled his previous concussion in light of the news that Crosby was back on the ice skating on Thursday. What, if anything, can we take for this injury?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE:

Crosby returned to full practice today, in a normal jersey and skating on his regular line (as did Conor Sheary)

It remains to be seen and surely will be a "game time decision" to see what the lineup looks like for tomorrow night's game in DC. But as of now all signs are pointing to Sid coming back much sooner than later.

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When news broke that Sidney Crosby was back on the ice skating a little on his own Thursday, the first natural question, even though premature, would have to be when can he return to the lineup?

Skating alone is a far cry from being cleared for action in an NHL playoff game, but it's still natural. Coach Mike Sullivan, understandably, wasn't too enlightening with his comments during a phone call with the media yesterday.

"He's in the process of rehabbing. We'll just leave it at that. "It's a day-to-day process, and we're taking each day as it comes.

"I'm not going to elaborate on the process that he's going through. We really rely on our medical staff in that regard. These guys advise us, and they're very good at what they do. He's in the process right now and will continue to be."

With an uncertain and often shifting injury like a concussion where there can be good days (with little-to-no symptoms) and bad days (where symptoms pop up), Sullivan's answer isn't totally unfair. It's a day-by-day basis to see how he progresses as time passes.

One "fortunate" thing is that we can go back to Crosby's last concussion recovery this past October to see how the Penguins handled that. Of course, every concussion is different, so every recovery and timeline is different as well. This isn't a hard and fast guide of what the future holds, but it does seem pretty valid to see how things may go.

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October 7, 2016: Crosby suffers a concussion in practice, which after undergoing testing the team announces on 10/9.

October 11: Crosby skates on his own before the team practice, four days after the injury.

"I think going through it, you understand the process," Crosby said. "I think progress is a good thing. You just go day by day. You don't look too far ahead. I was happy to be able to skate today. You kind of just understand there's progression, and you look at that and make sure you do everything right to get back out."

October 13: The regular season begins. A Crosby-less Pens team led by Marc-Andre Fleury defeats the Washington Capitals 3-2 in a shootout

October 24: After skating before practice on his own regularly since 10/11, Crosby rejoins his teammates in a practice 17 days after the injury was suffered. He even was participating in contact/battle drills from the very first practice on. Also note that due to road trips and compressed schedule, it was hinted Crosby was forced to wait a couple days longer to rejoin practice for logistics/scheduling reasons.

October 25: 18 days after injury, and just 1 full practice under his belt, Crosby makes his 2016-17 regular season debut in a 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers.

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There are always questions about how teams, doctors and players handle concussions, and for good reason. No one wants to see any player risk serious damage to their brain. But without medical degrees there's a lot of speculation, mostly baseless that goes on about the condition of a player.

Crosby's recent concussion has parallels to his last one- where in both instances he's been described as "upbeat", "positive" and was able to get back on the ice 3-4 days after the injury. It took him a while though to rejoin practice, and due to scheduling restraints was pretty much forced to slow the process and take a long time to be cleared.

In the NHL playoffs, there isn't really the luxury of a long time to wait. Everyone, of course, knows and wants him to return when 100% and not before, but it's just a statement of fact that the games will advance. Luckily, up 3 games to 1, Pittsburgh has a unique advantage and opportunity to get Crosby (as well as all their players) an extended time off if they can finish off Washington on Saturday.

With the Ottawa/NYR series currently 2 games a piece, it will likely be a while before the Eastern Conference Finals start. While Crosby's recovery is independent of the schedule, making it to the ECF and extending the time for recovery sure would be fancy.

In a nutshell, we'll see when and if Crosby advances to the point that he is able to participate in practice with his teammates. That seems to be the next tangible step he will make. How long that takes remains a mystery, perhaps to all.