Sid's Olympics on back-burner

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:59 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- The CTV camera crew taping pre-Olympic footage in the Penguins dressing room yesterday may as well have been background noise to Sidney Crosby.

There is no need to remind the man who soon could be known as Captain Canada of what is coming in the few short months ahead.

But to think even the biggest tournament ever to be played in his own country will disrupt Sid the Kid's preparation for a game, a practice or a season is to misunderstand what helped get him here.

On this day, it is the serious business of getting the handle on a new style of stick, his major training camp project. Think of Tiger Woods tinkering with his irons before one of golf's majors to compare what this might be like for one of the NHL's most polished playmakers.

There may not be a more driven player in the NHL, however, which is why Crosby is treating the glare of the pending Vancouver Olympics more as a source of excitement than distraction.

"I won't let it," Crosby said of the attention, which began at the Team Canada orientation camp in Calgary earlier this month. "I'm going to worry about playing here.

"The (Olympic) motivation is going to come from knowing it's something I want to be part of. I'll keep that in the back of my mind and that's good. That can only make me better."

The pace of training camp, thus far, has been perfect for Crosby, whose short summer included a Stanley Cup parade in his home town of Cole Harbour, N.S., an event that still brings a smile.

By the time the season begins on Oct. 3, Crosby will have played in no more than four pre-season contests. He sat out last night's contest against the Leafs and will lace up for just one of back-to-back games in Montreal and Toronto next week.

But that's not to say Crosby hasn't been hard at work. Skating with the second group of Penguins yesterday, No. 87 was one of the last off the ice after a 90-minute session in which he looked in mid-season form.

Afterwards, he was relaxed and engaging in a quiet Penguins dressing room that, this past June, had been the home base for some memorable Stanley Cup moments.

The work ethic of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who vie for lead role on any given night, is not lost on their teammates -- young or old.

"When your two superstars are the first two guys tugging the rope, it's impossible not to respond," forward Matt Cooke said yesterday. "If we want to get back to where we were, those two will lead the way."

WAY OF THE FUTURE

The stick change is an intriguing one and Crosby admits he hasn't decided to take the new Reebok Sickick II (which retails for some $200 US plus, hockey moms and dads) into the regular season.

In the past, Crosby has tinkered with the one-piece composite for a practice here and there, knowing that it was the way of the future. Now that Reebok has told him the two-piece stick is on the way out, there is reason to give it a closer look.

The sniper in Sid likes the velocity he gets, a more lethal shot in part because the one-piece has more curve. The downside is that Crosby has been wrestling with control.

"I'm trying to be more patient with it," said Crosby, who still has a reserve stash of the old blades. "I tried it before, but really didn't give it enough time. My shot is harder with more power because of the curve. It's just the feel. I got so used to the wood blade and get the right feel of how the puck is rolling on the blade.

"But I'm happy the last few days. It's getting closer."

And so is something else rather important to Canadians.

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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