Crosby gunning for Olys

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- With the Canadian World Junior Hockey Championship tryout camp a few days away Sun hockey writer Ken Wiebe takes a look at how some of our world champs from 2005 are making the transition to the pro game in part three of a five-part series we call: Golden Boys. Today we focus on Pittsburgh Penguin phenom Sidney Crosby.

Sidney Crosby won't be wearing the Maple Leaf on the ice during the holiday season, but there is a possibility of him making Canada's Olympic team.

Once his first National Hockey League season got underway, Crosby understood the chances of him helping defend the gold medal he won at the 2005 World Junior Hockey Championship were slim to none.

And while he hasn't spent much time speculating whether he could -- or should -- be added to the Olympic team, Crosby remains in the running to be on the final list that will be announced later this month.

'Want to be part of it'

"It's one of those things that's getting closer and closer," Crosby said yesterday morning at Mellon Arena. "I know I'm 18, but at the same time, I want to be part of it. But it's important to worry about helping my team here and playing my best. I don't know what the situation is but I'd love to play there. There's so many great players, I'll try to have a great month here and we'll see what happens."

Crosby has already made a big impression on Philadelphia Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock, who is one of Team Canada's assistant coaches.

"He came in as a high-profile player and everyone was watching him, including the other teams," Hitchcock, who has also been impressed by Ottawa Senators centre Jason Spezza and Carolina Hurricanes pivot Eric Staal, said earlier this week at the Flyers' practice facility in Voorhees, N.J. "Now he's become a target because he's their leading scorer.

"When the coach stands up and says 'you've got to check this guy or he's going to kill you' that's a compliment to that player but it must be very difficult for him. He starts off as the light of the league and then after a while the competitive nature takes over and you say 'just a second, we're not going to let this guy beat us. We need these two points.' When you're on the ice and make a mistake against him, he makes you pay every time."

Oddly enough, Crosby's fate on the Olympic team could be tied to Mario Lemieux, who happens to serve as his landlord, occasional linemate and Penguins owner.

With Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman already declaring himself out of the mix, Lemieux's spot with Team Canada might be up in the air since he endured some trouble with an irregular heartbeat this week.

"That's (not) something I'm going to think about at all," said Crosby, who visited Lemieux at the hospital on Wednesday. "It's more important for him to get well."

Lemieux was discharged from a Pittsburgh-area hospital yesterday and is listed as day-to-day, though the Penguins stressed he would be able to return to action before long.

As for the chance to see Crosby suiting up for Canada later this month to take a shot at defending the world junior title in B.C., Hockey Canada head scout Blair Mackasey never even broached the subject with Penguins general manager Craig Patrick.

"(That conversation) took place in jest," Mackasey said earlier this week. "Sidney had played in the tournament two years and had nothing left to prove. The scary thing is that he is eligible to play in it two more years."

As for Crosby's early-season success, Mackasey says a big factor often gets lost in the shuffle.

"It's been an exciting year with so many good young players coming into the league," said Mackasey. "But what people don't realize is that Sidney is only 18 years old. He's the only true rookie."

But being a true rookie might not prevent Crosby from getting a ticket to Italy.

The Crosby Show

A quick look at Penguins' rising star Sidney Crosby:

* AGE: 18

* BORN: August 7, 1987 in Dartmouth, N.S.

* LAST AMATEUR TEAM: Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)

* FIRST OVERALL SELECTION of Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005 NHL entry draft

* 2005-06 STATISTICS: 28 GP, 13G, 16A, 29P

* FIRST POINT: On Oct. 5, Crosby assisted on goal by Mark Recchi in his NHL debut against the New Jersey Devils.

* FIRST GOAL: On Oct. 8, Crosby scored his first against Hannu Toivonen of the Boston Bruins.

* FIRST TWO-GOAL GAME: On Nov. 4, Crosby notched a pair and added an assist against Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders.


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