Penguins’ Crosby at ease as centre of attention

 

 
 
 
 
Sidney Crosby has words for Marc Methot following the “hip check” in the 1st period as the Ottawa Senators take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in NHL action Monday night at Canadian Tire Centre.
 
 

Sidney Crosby has words for Marc Methot following the “hip check” in the 1st period as the Ottawa Senators take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in NHL action Monday night at Canadian Tire Centre.

Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington, Ottawa Citizen

The Canadian Ambassador of Hockey was about to sit down when he realized something.

The crush of cameras and microphones was too large to accommodate from a seating position, and so Sidney Crosby stood up at his locker room stall to address the first wave and then the second, patiently answering each question, making eye contact with each questioner.

Canada could not do better than this ambassador, who not only represents his sport but plays it, too, and who happens to be at the top of his game approaching the midpoint of a hectic NHL schedule, crammed to include the Olympic tournament in Sochi, Russia, where Crosby will lead Canada’s hockey hopes.

Even the greats have off nights. At the Canadian Tire Centre on Monday, a large crowd delighted in watching the hometown Senators end Crosby’s personal 10-game point streak as the Senators handled the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-0.

It’s not the first time Crosby has been frustrated in this building. The lasting image was of No. 87 sailing over the hip check of Senators defenceman Marc Methot during a game in which the Penguins could not solve Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson.

Earlier in the day, Crosby was named the NHL’s second star of the past week, as he scored twice and added six assists in four games.

This Senators rout aside, the universe is unfolding as it should where Crosby is concerned: the erstwhile Kid (he’s 26 now) is healthy and standing atop the scoring leaders with 54 points in 39 games, including 20 goals.

“It’s been busy,” Crosby says, standing in the visitors’ dressing room at Canadian Tire Centre. “The last month, especially, you feel it a bit more. We’re coming into the Christmas break, so I’m sure a few days off will be good, but I think you just try to use your days off and rest when you can ... probably more mentally than physically.”

This was Pittsburgh’s seventh game in 11 days and for Ottawa, seven in 12.

Crosby’s Penguins, though racked with injuries this fall and early winter, stand atop the Eastern Conference, arriving in Ottawa with an improbable seven-game winning streak.

For the last couple of weeks, Pittsburgh has been missing its top four defencemen: Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin and Rob Scuderi. In all, the injuries add up to more than 200 man-games lost and counting.

So far, the AHL callups have performed admirably, although there were times in the Ottawa game that they looked like AHL players. The pressure is on Crosby and his fellow veterans to carry the club — and Monday they lost another one when Crosby’s linemate Pascal Dupuis injured his knee after getting tangled with Crosby after the Methot hit.

“I think everyone has tried to raise their level a little bit — when guys go out (with injury), naturally you try to do that. I’ve been able to produce and contribute, but I think it’s really been everyone, from goaltending on out,” Crosby says.

Like a lot of people in hockey, Crosby believes the strong play of the callups speaks to the depth in the organization, especially on the blue line.

“It says a lot,” Crosby says. “The energy and enthusiasm they’ve brought when we’ve had guys out has been big for our team, but even guys who aren’t hurt and are used to playing a bit more and are experienced — that energy has kind of trickled all the way through our lineup.”

Sort of sounds like last season for the Senators, when so many players came up from AHL Binghamton and played important roles in Ottawa.

Everyone around Crosby seems to have it going. That includes winger Chris Kunitz, whose 20 goals and 39 points have him in a near lockdown position on Canada’s team. Crosby seems to concur, even though he is politically astute enough to stay out of the selection debate.

“The fact we play together helps, I think familiarity is always important,” Crosby says, “but I think at the end of the day, they have to go through that (selection) process.

Crosby would like to think Canadian selectors have also noticed his goalie pal, Marc-Andre Fleury, the league’s leader in wins with 21.

Fleury’s numbers weren’t as polished last season and he seemed to lose his confidence — and then his starting job in the playoffs to Tomas Vokoun, out this season with a blood clot problem.

Crosby dismisses Fleury’s issues last spring to a “bit of trouble” in a couple of playoff games. He also had a “bit of trouble” with the Senators on Monday.

Meanwhile, Crosby soldiers on through his ninth NHL season, a veteran at ease with fans and media talking about the Olympics weeks in advance, even as he continues to focus on his NHL team.

“With my first experience in Vancouver and kind of going through all that, I don’t think it can be talked about any more than it was,” Crosby says. “Going through that once probably helps and the fact we are playing so much, you don’t have time to really think about it that much. You think about playing your games. And obviously, you want to be playing well going into the Olympics.”

 
 
 
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Sidney Crosby has words for Marc Methot following the “hip check” in the 1st period as the Ottawa Senators take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in NHL action Monday night at Canadian Tire Centre.
 

Sidney Crosby has words for Marc Methot following the “hip check” in the 1st period as the Ottawa Senators take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in NHL action Monday night at Canadian Tire Centre.

Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington, Ottawa Citizen

 
Sidney Crosby has words for Marc Methot following the “hip check” in the 1st period as the Ottawa Senators take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in NHL action Monday night at Canadian Tire Centre.
Wayne Scanlan is a sports columnist for the Ottawa Citizen.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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