Sid the kid's a winner

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

At one point, Sid "The Kid" Crosby considered growing up in Ottawa.

His father Troy was exploring options for the then 14-year-old phenom, whose coach at the time was good friends with Sandy Hunt, the late father of 67's owner Jeff Hunt. Troy Crosby and Jeff Hunt spoke -- and even discussed a plan that would see young Sidney spend a season in the Central Junior Hockey League before joining the 67's at 16.

Alas, Crosby chose to stay closer to his Cole Harbour, N.S., home and play for the QMJHL's Rimouski Oceanic, from where the Pittsburgh Penguins selected him first overall at Ottawa's Westin Hotel last July.

Before last night's game -- his first NHL regular-season appearance in Ottawa -- Crosby admitted there was "a little bit" of extra significance in finally making his debut in the city he was drafted, though not as much as if the draft had actually been held at the arena.

"This isn't too far from Hull and I had a couple of good games (at the Robert Guertin Centre)," he said outside the Pens dressing room before lacing 'em up against the Senators. "Good memories and bad memories, actually. I had a four-point game there and a 35-game point-scoring streak stopped there."

Crosby's initial showing in Ottawa as an NHLer wasn't so memorable. The closest he came to scoring was the post he hit in the first. He had no assists, either, and a minus-1 rating, along with three shots on goal and an 8-14 won-loss record in the faceoff circles during 24 shifts and 20:20 of ice time.

Now, it was also obvious Crosby wasn't fully over the flu, and he admitted to only feeling about 90%, but he wasn't going to use that as an excuse, either.

"I don't think I played well at all, there's no nice way to put it," said Crosby, who remains at 26 goals and 35 assists -- and amazingly grownup for an 18-year-old. "Obviously, I'm not where I want to be (health wise), but if I'm playing I have to be responsible to do my job out there."

He'll do it fine for the next 20 or so years, of that you can be sure.

Starts and Stops:

Christoph Schubert decided to go the conventional route in digging the Senators out of a hole against the Penguins this time. He scored instead of taking a penalty, which worked last week but has since become passe -- unlike being a Schubert fan, which is cool and very much the 'in' thing. "The last game (in Pittsburgh) I think was one of my worst I ever played, and I wanted to get a chance to play better against them," said Schoobie, who's much more comfortable on defence than the left wing he played last night. "I was lucky to score a goal, but I should have had about two more out there." Yeah, but then Bryan Murray might have had a hard time moving him back to the blue line ... Must be a combination of The Kid's appeal and the sign of the times that even the well-connected had trouble scoring tickets for last night's game, the 17th sellout in a row (and 23rd of the year) at The Bank. Still remember the night (1996-97 season, I believe) that only 12,000 came out to see a Penguins team led by Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. And those two superstars had 217 points (in just 139 games) between them that year, so you could say they were going pretty good.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm:

Zdeno Chara, who leads the Senators in average ice time a night at 27:38, remembers a game in Slovakia a couple years back that he played 47 of the 60 minutes. "I was taking five-minute shifts," the Big Zee said. Of his workload here, he points out some games are more taxing than others, but adds with a big smile: "I'd love to play 40-45 minutes." ... Murray moved to the boards and was close enough to a scrum in front of the Senators bench midway through the second that we thought he was going to take a poke at somebody. Pretty sure he could still hold his own in a brawl, too ... Pittsburgh broadcaster (and former Sen) Phil Bourque says Ottawa could help itself by trading for John LeClair? After watching the Penguins live two times the past week, we think Ottawa could help itself more by adding the 43-year-old Bourque, who last played with the Hamburg Crocodiles in 1999-2000.

Punch Lines:

Ray Emery's new mask has a picture of a blond Mike Tyson getting a tattoo while he munches on a cockroach. It's so sweet ... Missing last night's game was Brian McGrattan, who's still feeling the after effects of Andrew Peters' right fist. "It's hard to play with one eye," Murray said when asked why his tough guy would miss this one ... Readers from Pitt were a little insulted last week when we said the Binghamton Senators could beat this Penguins team without Crosby. Consider this a take back. The Baby Sens could beat the Penguins with Crosby in the lineup ... Our pick as The Senators Player Of The Past Week? Easy -- Antoine Vermette. Two more helpers last night gives The Flying Frenchguy five points in his last four games, which is pretty nice production from a fourth liner ... A friend claims he saw Mark Recchi walk into the building wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Guess the cold weather in Ottawa doesn't bother him. He's used to minus-31.

SOME THINGS WORTH NOTING...

HIT 'O' THE NIGHT: Senators C Chris Kelly was crumpled by an open ice body check from Penguins D-man Brooks Orpik in the second period. Kelly missed the rest of the game with "an upper body injury."

SMOLINSKI ON CROSBY: Senators veteran Bryan Smolinski on Pittsburgh rookie Sidney Crosby: "I think he's a helluva player. Granted, he doesn't have the supporting cast he'd like, but the numbers he's putting up now, he's going to be great."


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