Sidney Crosby's return put off yet another day as Penguins win 4-3

Despite returning to full-contact practice with his teammates, Sidney Crosby did not play Sunday night, in the Pittsburgh Penguins' 4-3 shootout win over the Arizona Coyotes.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan addressed Crosby's situation after the team's morning skate, prior to Pittsburgh's captain missing his 28th consecutive game while he recovers from core muscle surgery. Crosby had surgery on Nov. 9.

"We're going to try to make decisions that are in the best interest of Sid and the team,'' Sullivan said Sunday. "That's what we did.''

Crosby was a full participant in practice during an off-day skate Saturday and continues to take steps toward his return. After largely practicing with a noncontact jersey in his recovery, he took part in line rushes Saturday and also worked with the first power-play unit.

"He obviously had another strong day today. We are encouraged by his progress," Sullivan said Saturday. "We'll take each day as it comes. We'll see how he responds, and we'll make decisions accordingly."

Crosby's mere presence on this three-game road trip to the Western Conference signified that the eight-time All-Star is near his return. He missed only one day of practice during the trip with illness. Perhaps Tuesday's home game vs. the Minnesota Wild will be a better fit.

"We're not ruling out anything," Sullivan said Saturday.

The Penguins have battled without Crosby. They went 3-0 on this road trip and have won seven of their past nine. Pittsburgh is 18-6-4 without Crosby and is in the No. 2 playoff seed in the Metropolitan Division, four points behind the Washington Capitals.

"When he practices, it's amazing the influence he has on our team. The pace of the practice just elevates significantly, and I think that's a credit to how hard he works," Sullivan said. "His practice habits become contagious around our group. I know our guys are excited when he's out there with us.

"He improves our morale."