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UPDATE: Crosby Participates in Morning Skate, Will NOT Play Thursday

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Sidney Crosby (black jersey) and Bryan Rust (white jersey) worked out before the morning skate.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain, top-line center and best player Sidney Crosby still seems incredibly close to making his season debut, but coach Mike Sullivan said that Crosby will not play Thursday night when the Calgary Flames visit PPG Paints Arena.

Crosby participated in the team’s optional morning skate — and then some — Thursday morning at the arena.

Crosby and fellow injured top-liner Bryan Rust had what appeared to be a strenuous workout on the ice before the morning skate. After that, Rust retreated to the locker room while Crosby remained on the bench as the Zambonis cleaned the ice ahead of the team’s optional morning skate, then joined 12 teammates for the skate.

Sometimes, when a player has a hard workout before a morning skate, it’s an indication he won’t play that night, and that is the case with Crosby,

Sullivan said the Penguins will keep the way they keep the timeline in dealing with Crosby “we’ll keep internally.”

He added, though that, “We make decisions with our medical staff on a daily basis at this point. We’re at that stage where Sid is really getting closer and closer. We consult with our medical staff throughout the course of each day — first thing in the morning after an overnight, and we get feedback from those guys. And a lot of it, quite honestly, is based on Sid’s feedback as well and where he’s at.

“We’re trying to make sure that we put Sid in the best possible position to be successful, and so we make those decisions daily.”

Crosby certainly seems close to making his season debut, especially after he practiced in a normal and full capacity on Wednesday, when Sullivan said Crosby had been upgraded to day to day. That debut now could come Saturday at home against the New Jersey Devils.

After his chronically nagging left wrist did not respond this summer as it has in past offseasons, Crosby opted to have surgery April 8. The prognosis then was that he would be out “a minimum” of six weeks. It is now seven weeks (and a day), so it’s no surprise that he is close to returning.

He began skating on his own during training camp, without his left hand on his stick. It progressed to two-handed workouts, including shooting, then this month to skating at times with the team. He said last week that seeing how his wrist responded under pressure — taking multiple faceoffs, getting into puck battles, lifting opponents’ sticks — would be the last big hurdle.

Crosby has worked on those things this week, apparently with positive results.

Meanwhile, Sullivan said defenseman Kris Letang is still experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, while forward Jeff Carter remains without symptoms and could possibly rejoin the team Friday.

Sullivan said Letang “is working through it,” as far as dealing with the virus. “I called him (Wednesday), but he didn’t call me back. We’re hoping to reach out again to him today and connect.”

Backup goaltender Casey DeSmith will start against the Flames, Sullivan said.

As for the optional morning skate, 13 players participated. The others were goaltenders Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith; forwards Brian Boyle, Drew O’Connor, Dominik Simon, Sam Lafferty and Kasper Bjorkqvist; and defensemenMike Matheson, Mark Friedman, Chad Ruhwedel, Juuso Riikola and Marcus Pettersson.

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Shelly is a columnist and reporter for Pittsburgh Hockey Now. She was a Penguins beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch her on Twitter @_shellyanderson

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