Crosby can score, too

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:33 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored his first two goals of the Pittsburgh Penguins' pre-season hockey tournament yesterday, thus squelching any talk that the kid is all hype.

Okay, kidding, but Crosby's two markers, the product of a penalty shot and a fairly remarkable backhand, kept him on an upward trajectory after a fruitless day Friday and a three-assist performance on Thursday.

"I was better at both ends, defensively and offensively," Crosby said. "It was more of a well-rounded game. I want to add to that."

Playing with veteran winger Mark Recchi, Crosby twice victimized 22-year-old goalie Andy Chiodo.

John LeClair, expected to be the third member of the unit, was given a day off the ice.

Crosby conceded he had become anxious to find the net.

"There had been a lot of chances the past couple of games," he said. "I think I was due so it's nice to get one."

Crosby isn't the only one wondering where the goals went. The projected rush of offence because of new rule changes hasn't manifested itself here.

Plenty of reasons for that, including rust from players who took a year off. Penguins forwards, like others around the league, are struggling to recalibrate their instincts after a lifetime of conditioning to mind the centre line on the rush.

"Sometimes Johnny (LeClair) and I go up to the line and remind ourselves, 'Oh yeah, we can go past that,' " Recchi said.

In Crosby, Pittsburgh coach Ed Olczyk sees an 18-year-old nicely finding his way in an unusual training camp that also must accommodate new Penguins Sergei Gonchar, Lyle Odelein, Ziggy Palffy, LeClair and Recchi.

"I think he's starting to feel more comfortable," Olczyk said of Crosby. "A lot of things are getting thrown out not only Sidney's way but all of their way.

"The backhand goal was tremendous. I was more impressed with the three passes in a row he and Reccs made between the two bluelines and the chemistry they are getting by playing on a line."

"I feel comfortable," Crosby said. "I'm definitely feeling challenged but with each day I gain more experience. I'm just trying to improve each day."

The Penguins workouts are held at the downtown Mellon Arena and are free to the public. It's a measure of Crosby's popularity that he drew a comparable crowd as Mario Lemieux in a fundraiser for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Lemieux and Crosby were selling autographs for $40 and the lineup for both men snaked through the concourse of the arena.

No one thought to keep the puck Crosby flipped past Chiodo but that wouldn't be the case if Crosby scores Monday in his first exhibition game. The Penguins are playing in Columbus but Olczyk won't confirm Crosby's participation in the game until this morning.

The Penguins will play nine pre-season games before they open the season Oct. 5 in New Jersey against the Devils. Olczyk would like to get Crosby into four or five of those contests.

"I want to play as soon as possible," Crosby said. "You want to play but I don't pick and choose. It's not my job."

One of Crosby's strengths is is his ability to keep things simple. He has been unflinching with the waves of media that descended on him in the first few days of camp. He was knocked around and slashed Thursday and came back better yesterday. Whatever the development, Crosby has shrugged and gone about things.

"That's one of his great strengths," his agent, Pat Brisson, said. "He prepares for things, it's like he visualizes, and then he gets them done."

Naturally then, Crosby isn't looking too far ahead, say to New Jersey when this whole thing gets started in earnest.

"I need this training camp,' he said. "I need to play at this level for a few weeks before I'm ready to step up. That's fine with me. I'm here to work."


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