Sid the Kid is coming to Steeltown.
In what must have sounded like such sweet music to the game's promoters, Pittsburgh Penguins phenom Sidney Crosby confirmed yesterday that he'll be in the lineup tonight for the exhibition matchup against the Buffalo Sabres at Hamilton's Copps Coliseum.
It might sound bizarre that an 19-year-old kid could make or break the size of a walkup crowd for a pre-season encounter, of all things.
But as the hockey world so eloquently discovered a year ago, this is no ordinary teenager.
A year ago, Crosby, then 18, became the youngest NHLer to reach the 100-point barrier, ending up with 102 on 39 goals and 63 assists.
As convincing as those stats are, Crosby already is being asked about a potential sophomore jinx, a subject Penguins supporters grimace at when brought up.
"I think if it's your second year, you're more experienced and there's no reason why you can't be a better player," Crosby, mature beyond his years, said during a conference call yesterday.
"If you look at points-wise, expectations-wise, on what people are expecting, I can see that being the case. Of course, if you get 100 points one year, you're going to be expected to get 115 your second year.
"I think you should be a better player. If we're talking points, that's something that's totally out of your control."
When Crosby talks about the '05-06 Pens campaign he refers to it as a "good season." That might seem like a strange description, considering only the St. Louis Blues ended up with fewer points than the 58 posted by Pittsburgh.
But Crosby is encouraged by the stable of talented kids around him, a group of young guns that also includes goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury; forward Evgeni Malkin, the second overall pick in the 2004 entry draft; and fellow forward Jordan Staal, the No. 2 overall selection in 2006.
Crosby is quite impressed with Malkin, who bolted Russia to join the Penguins only to separate his shoulder when he tumbled over teammate John LeClair during a pre-season game earlier this week.
"When he went down, I just hoped he got up," Crosby said."It was scary.The way he went down, I wasn't sure if it was his neck or if his face had been crushed. Fortunately he's in good spirits and there seems to be a chance that he might be ready for the regular season.
"I was excited when he came here because of the sacrifice he made to be with this team. We both like to use our speed, but he might be a bit more of a playmaker."