Kid to Kid Line

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Sid the Kid knows exactly what the The Kid Line is dealing with.

Sidney Crosby knows as much about the sophomore jinx as anyone. He didn't actually have one - going from 102 points as a rookie to 120 in his second year - but he understands the phenomenon that's dogging Edmonton's youngsters.

"In my first year I wasn't playing against top D every night," he said. "I wasn't going to surprise teams (because of the hype surrounding his arrival), but I also wasn't going to be matched up. If we played Jersey, I wasn't going against their top pairings."

In his second year, he was. Teams paid considerably more attention to Crosby, just like they're paying more attention to Sam Gagner, Robert Nilsson and Andrew Cogliano.

"In my situation it was (tougher in year two). If you have a great rookie year, then the expectations are higher and there's more pressure."

Of course, that's something that never goes away.

"It's a mental battle every season, whether it's your first year or whatever," said Crosby. "Guys who've been through it a lot longer than me, I'm sure they'll tell you it's a roller coaster.

"(In tough times) you just have to go back to what's made you successful to get to that point. You can't change much. Everybody got here for a reason. You just have to get back to basics."

CZECH MATES: PETR SYKORA STILL LOOKS BACK ON HIS BRIEF TIME ALONGSIDE ALES HEMSKY AS THE EASIEST AND MOST PROLIFIC PERIOD IN HIS CAREER.

"He really grew on me, playing with him,"said Sykora, who's remained good friends with the Edmonton winger since moving on to the Penguins.

"We're car fanatics, we talk cars all the time. He's just an honest guy, a straight shooter and I like that; he's one of the best guys I've ever met in hockey, he really is."

The two had amazing chemistry, which Sykora, who scored the majority of his 22 goals that year in the 40 odd games he played on Hemsky's line, says it isn't all that surprising.

"It's not hard to figure it out," he said. "I'm a shooter and when you have such a good right-handed player and passer and skater the way Ales is, it was probably the easiest 40 games I've ever played. He kept feeding me one-timers. I had three or four one-timers a night. It was kind of a walk through the park for me."

Hemsky has struggled to find the same chemistry ever since, one of the reasons, Sykora believes, that he isn't up there with the NHL's 100-point crowd.

"On the power play he has Souray and Visnovsky, but if Ales had a goal-scoring shooter, a left-handed shot, for 82 games on his line, I think he could challenge all the top-scoring guys in this league. I'm not saying that because he's my buddy, I just know how good he is."

TRASH TALK: THE PENGUINS RETURNED TO THE RINK AFTER A FEW DAYS OFF, WHERE THEY HAD TO ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT ALEXANDER SEMIN'S RECENT STINGING CRITICISM OF SIDNEY CROSBY. SEMIN SUGGESTED CROSBY ISN'T THAT GREAT A PLAYER, JUST A DECENT SET-UP MAN WHO'S BEEN TURNED INTO A STAR BY THE NHLMARKETING MACHINE.

"Guys are free to say what they want," shrugged Crosby. "Everyone is entitled to their opinion ... whether it's always necessary to share it with everyone, that's up to them. It depends on your personality and what you need to declare. But if guys feel the need to say that, they're entitled to."


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