SUN Hockey Pool

Marquee matchup

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Tonight may be only the second time Dion Phaneuf and Sidney Crosby have officially lined up across from one another.

However, it's not the first time they've battled.

In fact, several of their previous on-ice encounters turned plain nasty despite the fact they came while the two played for the same team.

"Their battles are the stuff of legends," said TSN analyst Pierre McGuire, whose eyes light up when talk turns to the duo's dustups.

"They had snot coming out of their noses and everything."

One year after Crosby became the youngest player ever to score at the World Juniors, the 17-year-old winger returned to Canada's junior squad for the 2004 summer camp hell-bent on making an even bigger impact.

And he did exactly that by battling a habitually cantankerous Phaneuf with a series of violent clashes in practice that ultimately led to a fight when Colin Fraser stepped in to drop the gloves with Phaneuf.

"You've got a pretty good memory, I almost forgot about that," said Phaneuf of a situation made even more awkward by the fact Fraser and Phaneuf were teammates with the Red Deer Rebels at the time.

"Oh yeah, we always laugh about that when we see each other. A fight in world junior camp is not usually something that happens."

Especially on a team that may prove in time to be one of the greatest collections of hockey talent.

"In those camps, you want to improve to make your team better and that's how you do it by practicing hard in drills and challenging each other," said the Flames blueliner, undoubtedly the NHL's top hitter.

"We both play hard. He'll tell you the same thing. I play a physical style, he's a skilled guy. That's part of our games -- he competes, I compete. Sometimes, tempers flare."

Things boiled over again between the two that Christmas at the tourney in North Dakota when the eventual gold-medal winners had two days of practice before starting the playoffs.

"At one point, Phaneuf knocked Sid's helmet off and they just kept battling -- it was almost scary," said Hockey Canada's Andre Brin.

"They were chirping at each other like crazy afterwards and I remember (Sportsnet's) Peter Loubardias saying, 'I think its probably time to call the practice.' A few minutes later they did."

While they got along off the ice, many figure the two simply chose to test their mettle against the best. Either way, their escapades set the stage for what is sure to be an ongoing storyline between two of the game's best young players.

"He's a tough defenceman to play against and he prides himself on his physical game," said Crosby one day before his very first visit to the 'Dome.

"You don't change anything against him but the competition gets a little higher."

Known league-wide for his scoring touch, creativity and competitiveness, Crosby is also making his mark as a power forward.

While the presence of policeman Georges Laraque ensures no one takes to many liberties with Crosby, teammates know their 20-year-old captain can handle himself.

"Sid told me about that fight at the juniors and I can see that happening -- I almost got into it with him a couple days ago," chuckled Colby Armstrong, a notorious chirper who played one year with Phaneuf.

"I'm sure they'll be going head to head. Dion has that mentality he doesn't care who you are or what you do. He plays hard. That's the way he's taught. Sid's that way too."

If anyone can push Sid the Kid to turn Sid Vicious, it's Phaneuf.

Let the transformation begin.


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