SOCHI, RUSSIA - When they first hear it, surely it sounds like the dream assignment of a career.
You are wearing a Team Canada uniform, which is inspiring enough. And now coach Mike Babcock puts you on the wing with the man widely regarded as the best player in the world.
Who wouldn't want to be on the same line as Sidney Crosby in the latest chase for a golden hockey moment?
Well, what we saw in Vancouver we're seeing again in Sochi: The reality of being No. 87's linemate isn't necessarily a dream designation at all.
The pressure to produce, married with the challenge of keeping up with a man who sees the game two time zones ahead of you, can be far more difficult than it sounds.
"I don't think it's tough to play with him, but when you do play with him, you have to produce," said Jeff Carter, who was No. 87's wing man in Canada's opening 3-1 win over Norway. "When he has the puck, he's going to make plays. And whoever is with him needs to put the puck in the net.
"Everything he does is at a high pace. His speed is right up there with a lot of guys, but his thinking and reading ahead of the play and knowing what he's going to do two plays ahead of the next guy."
Most of it is coincidence, of course, but Carter played with Crosby in Canada's opening 3-1 win over Norway here and when "sprung" from the wing of No. 87, the next night he had a hat trick.
Martin St. Louis was on the Crosby line in that 6-1 win over Austria. His immediate fallout? A healthy scratch against Finland for Sunday's final preliminary round game.
While it's unfair to pin the lack of offensive production entirely on Crosby, when you are the world's best player, Captain Canada and the man who scored the Golden Goal in Vancouver, it's inescapable.
And apparently it carries to the two men lined up on either side.
Through the three games and three wins of the preliminary round, at least five wingers have spent some not-so-quality ice time with Crosby -- Carter, Sid the Kid's Pittsburgh running mate Chris Kunitz, St. Louis, Jamie Benn and Patrice Bergeron.
In Vancouver, and in no particular order, Crosby was paired with Eric Staal, Bergeron, Rick Nash, Mike Richards, Jonathan Toews and Jarome Iginla.
Just who Crosby will be paired with in Wednesday's quarter-final remains a mystery. Babcock stuck with off-ice workouts on Monday and the team will return to the ice on Tuesday afternoon.
With a roster so deep in talent, Babcock will never truly run out of options. But some point, doesn't the tinkering need to end and at least one regular winger established?
"Obviously he draws a lot of attention to him," said Bergeron, who was alongside Crosby in Sunday's 2-1 overtime win over Finland. "You can tell (the opposition) is worried about him and they are playing him tight. I would do that also if I'm against Sid.
"He's obviously the best player in the world. It's about trying to find him when he's open, but also it's getting open for yourself, not just trying to feed him. He's a smart enough player to get open and see the right area to go to. I'm trying to do the same thing as well so he has some options."
Thus far, Crosby has been held to just two assists, a symptom that runs through the Canadian forward group that is now being outscored 6-5 by its blue-line brigade. Though he hasn't been paired with Crosby yet here, Nash had the opportunity in Vancouver and acknowledged the depth of the challenge.
"I think he's a tough guy to keep up with," said Nash, a skilled, big body who you might expect to mesh well alongside the Cole Harbour, N.S. native. "He's so fast. The way he thinks the game, it seems like it's far beyond everyone else's process. It's the same thing in the last Olympics -- you keep shuffling around until you found something that fits.
"The great thing about being a player is you don't have to worry about that stuff. We have (Babcock) to make those decisions."
And the coach has made more than a couple already.
Crosby said he has resisted the temptation to change his game to adapt to new wingers.
"I think you're always aware of who you're playing with and what their strengths are, but I don't think it changes what you do out there," Crosby said. "I don't think you really have a chance to overthink too much.
"All the guys here are so good, I think you can just read off each other, no matter who you're playing with."
On the other hand, he also acknowledged that in the NHL the chemistry doesn't materialize overnight.
"Geez, I don't even know how long I've been playing with those guys, it's been a while," Crosby said. "I think it takes time. I don't think I'm out there thinking about where a guy's going to be or second-guessing a play because I haven't necessarily played with that guy.
"I would do the same things I would do in Pittsburgh, playing with the guys I've played with for a number of years."
Of course, in the absurd bubble in which he plays, no one wants to talk about the fact that Crosby is the captain of a 3-0 team that is still the favourite to win and repeat the title it won in Vancouver.
"Everyone evaluates Sid on scoring," Babcock said. "I evaluate Sid on winning."