Penguins Training Camp: Reward potentially great with Crosby as a penalty killer

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It seems that Sidney Crosby is constantly adding new roles and titles.

Though just 20, he has been hockey's top ambassador for some time. He was the NHL's scoring champion and MVP last season and was named the Penguins' team captain in the offseason.

Now he could add the final facet to his on-ice role. Already the Penguins' top-line center, quarterback of the power play and top-three shootout participant, Crosby will be given a chance earn a spot killing penalties.

Coach Michel Therrien said yesterday between training camp practices at Mellon Arena that he is looking to add at least one more forward pairing to the two that carried much of the load last year, Maxime Talbot-Colby Armstrong, and Jordan Staal-Ryan Malone.

Several players will get a shot.

"We need to try to add more people," Therrien said. "There's [Jarkko] Ruutu, who has a little bit of experience with the way we play. And we're talking about a Crosby. We're talking about [an Evgeni] Malkin. We're talking about [an Erik] Christensen."

Ruutu, Malkin and Christensen, among others, spent some time on the short-handed units when the Penguins played two preseason games in Montreal earlier this week. Crosby, who played in the first game, did not kill penalties.

He might before the preseason ends or during the regular season.

"I want to make sure I can do a good job and I'm responsible out there, but, yeah, I'm interested," Crosby said.

"I did it in junior. And even the last two years here, I've been involved in the penalty-killing meetings. I tried to make sure I was learning as much as I could. Then the odd time I'd be out there the last 10, 15 seconds [of a short-handed situation], I had to make sure I was in the right place.

"It's one of those things you have to be in it in order to get used to it, to find yourself, find your position. You can draw it up all you want, look at video all you want, but once you get out there you have to be able to react."

Given his two-way play as a center and prolific scorer -- 75 goals and 222 points in his first 160 NHL games -- Crosby could be an asset as a penalty killer while adding minimally to the 21 minutes, 40 seconds of ice time he averaged last season.

He understands the balance between defense and offense while killing penalties.

"Your first responsibility is not to get scored on," he said. "At the same time, I would have to use my instincts and if I see a chance maybe I can be a threat offensively. Maybe I can back them off and create something. You've got to look at the risk and rewards."

The Penguins already have a scoring threat as a penalty killer in Staal, who as a rookie last season led the NHL with seven short-handed goals, or half of the Penguins' 14, which tied for fifth in the team statistics.

With the addition of Crosby -- or Malkin, who had 85 points as a rookie last season, or Christensen, who has a sniper's shot -- the Penguins stand a chance of becoming one of the top short-handed threats in the league, especially if they can improve their penalty killing on the road.

The Penguins had an overall success rate of 82.1 percent, 17th out of 30 teams. They were strong at home (87.8) but struggled on the road (76.2). They also got stronger down the stretch, killing 87.6 percent of opponents' penalties in the final 20 games.

"The four of us had good chemistry last year," Talbot said. "If you can put maybe another two guys together, we could have more jump."



NOTES -- Winger Petr Sykora, whose nose was broken Tuesday night in Montreal in a collision with teammate Brooks Orpik, skipped practice but said he will try to skate today. He will have his nose realigned tomorrow and is expected to miss this weekend's two exhibition games. ... Goaltender John Curry was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. ... Crosby, Staal, Armstrong, Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Whitney will take part in a question-and-answer session and general manager Ray Shero will preview the season at a Town Hall Meeting for season ticket holders at 8 p.m. today at the arena. CEO Ken Sawyer and team president David Morehouse will provide an update on the new arena project.


Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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