I have it on good authority when Sidney Crosby will return to active duty in the NHL: only when he's 100 per cent healthy and not a moment sooner.
Now, when precisely that is, well, that's a matter of much speculation, which is only bound to ramp up on a daily basis the more we see Sid going short-side backhand cheese to pop the water bottle.
But the reality is Crosby, as of today, is only in Stage One of a three-stage process to prepare for a possible return to play. Stage One, of course, is skating on his own and he's been doing that, increasing the length and intensity of his solo workouts to the point where we shouldn't be too surprised if he is close to venturing into Stage Two any day now.
Stage Two is skating with the Penguins in their daily practices, doing non-contact drills, getting used to skating in and around 20 bodies and participating in legit NHL-calibre workouts with speed and tempo.
Stage Three, the final test if you will, is taking contact in full practice, basically simulating game conditions to see if there's any adverse reaction to hitting or being hit.
There's no way of knowing how long each stage will take but logic would suggest that more than a few days, maybe as much as a week or more, will be required for each of the two remaining stages…and that's if there are no setbacks, which is always a possibility.
Hey, it's patently obvious Crosby is doing what he's doing now in the fervent hope of being ready to play in the playoffs, but there's just no way of knowing exactly when, or even if, that is going to become a reality. It's like his agent Pat Brisson says: there is no target date for a return, just the obvious and nebulous he won't be back until he's healthy.