Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is inching closer to another return to NHL action, revealing on Tuesday that he's been cleared for contact.
Crosby began practising in earnest with teammates just under two weeks ago and can now participate in drills that involve physical play.
The Cole Harbour, N.S., native said he welcomed the fact that his teammates on Tuesday were quick to bump and jostle him in practice.
Crosby wouldn't put an exact timetable on his return to the lineup.
"No sooner than Sunday, I would say, but I’m not going to sit here and put a date on it. It would be total guesswork," he told the team's website." I just want to make sure I get through these days fine and that would be a great decision to make if I get to that point."
The 24-year-old star player didn't play a single game for 10½ months after a severe concussion injury resulted from absorbing head shots in consecutive games in early January 2011.
He returned with an impressive four-point display against the New York Islanders on Nov. 21 in a special edition of Hockey Night in Canada but lasted just eight games before heading to the sidelines again.
Crosby was shut down after a Dec. 5 contest against the Boston Bruins, a game in which he had notable collisions with Bruins forward David Krejci as well as his own teammate, Chris Kunitz.
The latest absence was complicated by the fact that it was discovered that Crosby had also suffered a neck injury at some point.
Since the hits he took in the 2010-11 season against Washington and Tampa Bay last year, Crosby has consulted with head and neck specialists in Georgia, Michigan and California, in addition to Pennsylvania.
The Penguins have a busy week. They host Toronto on Wednesday and then play road games this week against the New York Rangers (Thursday), Philadelphia (Saturday) and New Jersey (Sunday).
After the game against the Devils, Pittsburgh plays every other day over their next six games.