Sidney Crosby appears to have cleared a hurdle in his recovery from a concussion, with the Pittsburgh Penguins announcing through their Twitter feed Thursday that the captain is wearing a black helmet along with his teammates at practice.
"I’m cleared for full contact. It’s a good step in the right direction," Crosby said after practice. "We’ll see how it goes for the next little bit."
Crosby had been wearing a white helmet since training camp as he took part in non-contact drills with teammates.
The Penguins on Thursday announced a two-year contract extension for veteran forward Chris Kunitz.
The deal begins next season and runs through the 2013-14 campaign, with an average salary of $3.725 million US. He is set to earn $4 million this season.
Kunitz scored 23 goals while adding 25 assists in 66 games last season. So far this season he has one assist in four games.
Kunitz has notched 124 goals and 167 assists and 455 regular season games with Atlanta, Anaheim and Pittsburgh.
The 32-year-old Regina native has been part of two Stanley Cup teams — with Anaheim in 2006, and the Penguins three years later.
Both the star and coach Dan Bylsma refused to predict when the 24-year-old might be cleared to play in an NHL game.
The Penguins will undoubtedly want to monitor his progress and recovery from a number of contact practices.
"It’s pretty tough right now, we play every second day and back-to-back games," Crosby said. "There aren’t a lot of practices with contact per se," Crosby said. "I’ve got to get hit at some point during practice, but we’re playing so much that it’s pretty tough to get that in right now."
Pittsburgh is in Washington on Thursday, with a home game on tap Saturday against Buffalo.
Crosby was hit by Washington forward Dave Steckel and Tampa Bay defenceman Victor Hedman in consecutive games in early January. Steckel collided with Crosby while the Penguins star was turned, and Hedman drove him into the glass with a check.
The Cole Harbour, N.S., native had been on pace for the best offensive showing of his career, leading the NHL at the time with 32 goals and 34 assists.
During training camp, the Penguins revealed that Crosby had seen concussion specialists from Georgia and Michigan to get a better understanding on the nature of his head injury, which was described as complex.
Crosby spoke publicly about experiencing headaches and light and noise sensitivity.
More recently, he has expressed optimism about being able to skate hard in practice without feeling any adverse effects.