Sid struts stuff

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- He impresses his owner and landlord, the Magnificent One, day in and day out.

This time, Sidney Crosby had a little extra incentive to put on a show for the Great One.

Word earlier in the day that Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux won't play for Team Canada in Turin had given Crosby's chances of wearing the Maple Leaf a boost.

And with general manager Wayne Gretzky at the Mellon Arena scouting last night's game against the Colorado Avalanche, Crosby made his case live and in person.

"I'm sure they have kept tabs on a lot of guys this year and I doubt one game is going to make a difference whether (Gretzky's) there or not," Crosby said. "At the same time, you want to make an impression."

This was the first time Crosby had talked to Gretzky since Sid the Kid was 14.

"It was nice to see him and say hello," Crosby said. "You're kind of taking aback when you see him, but I knew he was here to scout the game."

Crosby, who leads the Pens in scoring with 30 points in 29 games added an assist in the 4-3 win over the Avalanche. He also made a couple of nifty behind-the-back passes that would have looked familiar to No. 99.

Gretzky said the Olympic team brass is impressed with the trio of youngsters widely touted as candidates -- Crosby, Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators' Jason Spezza.

"Absolutely we have a great deal of respect for Sidney," Gretzky said between periods last night. "The microscope he's under, the attention he gets and coming from the Canadian Juniors he knows what it's going to be like.

"Obviously he is a player we are considering."

Lemieux said that he is stepping down from the Olympic program in part to make roster room for younger prospects After stepping down, he made a passionate plea for Crosby to be included on the Canadian roster when it is announced later this month.

"Even if he goes there and doesn't play a whole lot, just to have the experience of playing and practising with these guys for a week to 10 days," Lemieux said. "I know when I played for Team Canada back in '87 (in the Canada Cup) it really changed my career.

"I am sure it would help Sidney quite a bit to be in that environment."

Crosby, who played for the Canadian team at the world junior championship the past two years, admitted the Olympic experience would trump those.

"It would be a dream come true," Crosby said. "I've represented Canada and it has been unbelievable each time.

"But this would be a whole other level and it would be a great experience."

Spezza had mixed reactions to Lemieux stepping down.

"It's tough any time you see a guy go down, especially of his stature. You want to see him be a part of it. But hopefully it will open a door up for a guy like myself. Maybe what I've done up to this point will show them that I can play."


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