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Sidney Crosby still has symptoms

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby joined his Pittsburgh Penguins teammates on the ice Friday for the first time in more than two months, but the star center says he remains bothered by concussion-like symptoms.

The 24-year-old hasn't played since the symptoms returned following a Dec. 5 loss to Boston, and he still is not cleared for contact.

He called the session with his teammates a matter of convenience because of a lack of ice availability at a suburban Pittsburgh rink.

Though he's "getting better," he said, he stressed he will remain sidelined as long as the symptoms linger.

"It's pretty clear cut," Crosby said. "There is no gray area. Either you're symptom-free and can move on to contact, or you're not. I feel like I'm progressing, but not ready to take a hit yet."

Crosby still has issues "daily," but isn't ready to rule out a return this season though the clock is ticking with less than two months remaining before the playoffs.

"I'm hoping to get back as soon as possible," he said. "I'm not going to pretend I know when that is. I won't say I'll be ready in a month, or two weeks or a week. I wouldn't be going through all of this if I didn't want to play as soon as possible.

"That's really all I'm worried about."

The Penguins have recovered nicely from a six-game losing streak around New Year's and head into a two-game trip through Philadelphia and Buffalo this weekend in fifth place in the crammed Eastern Conference standings.

With the Feb. 27 trade deadline looming, Crosby declined to say whether the team should defer some of his $8 million salary to create more flexibility in the trade market.

"That'll be a decision that's up to management," Crosby said.

Crosby has spent the past two months searching for answers, including a visit to a spine specialist in late-January in which he was diagnosed with a soft-tissue neck injury and given an injection.

The injury has symptoms that mimic a concussion, but three weeks after the treatment, Crosby remains uncertain of how he's going to feel on a given day.

"You have days where you feel you're getting better and the symptoms aren't quite as bad. Other days they're a little worse," he said. "Everyone has different symptoms. That's the tough thing about getting a gauge on it. It doesn't always seem consistent."

Even without contact, Crosby was happy to be on a crowded sheet of ice. He's spent most of the past month working out alone or with teammates rehabbing injuries of their own.

"It's good to get out there with guys moving around, that motion," he said. "Also from an exertion point, I've tested that pretty well. I'm pretty happy with the way it's gone."

Coach Dan Bylsma was pleasantly surprised Crosby decided to join the team for the session, but can tell his captain still isn't 100 percent.

"If you watch him, some days it's not as difficult, he's not going as hard," Bylsma said. "Certainly, you see a lot of skill and speed when you see him skate. You saw that today."

Though Crosby remains out, the Penguins could get forward Arron Asham back Saturday. Asham hasn't played since Jan. 15 because of a concussion.