A hotel ballroom in Ottawa wasn't your usual setting for an NHL entry draft, but that was OK with Sidney Crosby.
"It could have been anywhere," the Penguins captain recalled Wednesday, referring to July 30, 2005, the day he was chosen first overall.
It was a makeshift draft venue because the event had been pushed back several weeks after a work stoppage had wiped out the previous season.
"I think it's a special day no matter where it is or how it is for anybody," Crosby said.
Although it has been known widely that the 2012 draft is coming to Consol Energy Center, the NHL and the Penguins formally will announce the designation this afternoon.
The first round will be in prime time June 22, with rounds two through seven the following day.
That means thousands of people will come to the city's 2-year-old arena next summer, including prospects, families, friends, onlookers, management from each of the 30 NHL teams, agents and national and international media.
When the Penguins called Crosby's name in '05, a week before his 18th birthday, he made the walk to the stage with a lot less fanfare than usual, but he still got to put on a Penguins jersey and pose with team executives, including Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux, then a player/owner.
"Everything was the same except for the crowd," Crosby said. "It was just a scaled-down version."
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin and winger Steve Sullivan skipped practice Wednesday, and winger Chris Kunitz left a little early, but coach Dan Bylsma said they should be available tonight for a home game against the New York Islanders.
Malkin returned Tuesday for the 3-0 road win against the Islanders after missing the previous five games and seven in all because of soreness related to his surgically repaired right knee.
Bylsma said Malkin was "much better" a day after the Islanders win than he was a day after he played Oct. 13 against Washington, which immediately preceded his five-game absence.
"[He was] probably more dealing with body soreness [Wednesday] from playing a game and not really having had much skating and conditioning vs. anything else," Bylsma said.
The Penguins-Islanders rematch tonight at Consol Energy Center is a scheduling quirk called a home-and-home, but the league doesn't set up many of those anymore. The Penguins have just two more, against Toronto and another with the Islanders.
Veteran Penguins winger Arron Asham remembers when they were more prevalent.
"We had some good rivalries with Boston when I was with Montreal, [New York] Rangers when I was with the Islanders," Asham said. "They're fun games, and they usually bring a lot of intense hockey."
In college and minor-league hockey, where travel is more cumbersome, teams often play weekend series. Penguins defensemen Deryk Engelland went through that a lot before he broke through to the NHL.
"It does get a little more physical. It's a lot of fun," Engelland said. "But I don't think it really matters. You develop a little bit of a rivalry, tight games."
Bylsma noted that late in the first of home-and-home games, there is jockeying for momentum.
"You get 120 minutes of ice hockey. It does carry over," Bylsma said. "I think it's fun to be a part of. You're seeing the same faces. There's animosity there. There might be history there. I think it would be great to see more."
One matchup might have been good for a two-game series.
"I think it would be great to see Pittsburgh-Philly back to back," Bylsma said.
For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: email@example.com , 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly .