Sidney Crosby's goal: Play a full NHL season


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As incredible as it might seem, Penguins star Sidney Crosby is about to embark on his ninth season in the NHL.

He figures, though, that he can tinker with the math.

"Seventh or eighth [season], I guess, excluding injuries," Crosby, 26, cracked Friday after skating with his teammates for the first time since the playoffs at an informal pretraining camp practice at Consol Energy Center.

"But, yeah, it goes by real quick."

For the first time in three years, the high-profile center is entering what could be a full season.

His 2010-11 season was cut in half because of a concussion. The same injury delayed the start of 2011-12 for him and forced him to miss more than three months after an abbreviated comeback.

A year ago, the start of the NHL season was pushed back to January by an owners lockout, and Crosby missed the final 12 games of last season because of a broken jaw.

"I'm excited to play a full season," Crosby said. "I know 82 games, especially in an Olympic year when [the NHL schedule] is condensed, is a lot of hockey, but to go through all the different things in a full regular season, those challenges, all those things are exciting.

"The biggest thing, though, is to play a full season."

Crosby was seemingly on his way to an NHL scoring title with 66 points in 41 games when he got hurt in January 2011and again when he got the broken jaw in March while leading the league with 56 points in 36 games.

Both times, he was playing at an atmospheric level just before he got injured.

With what could be a vast stretch of games this season, the hockey world will find out if he can hit that level again and sustain it for a full season.

Crosby included.

"I don't know if 'curiosity' is the right word," he said. "I'm excited.

"But I've played enough full seasons -- it's been a few [years] -- that I definitely know what it feels like. I'm eager to start and get into that routine."

Training camp opens Wednesday, and the first regular-season game is Oct. 3 at home against New Jersey.

In 2009-10, Crosby played 81 games for the Penguins in addition to playing for Canada at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, where he scored an overtime goal against the United States for the gold medal.

Now, as then, he is coming off of a short offseason that included a Canadian Olympic orientation camp. He is expected to again represent Canada for the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

He did not pick an aspect of his game to hone specifically as he has done in previous summers in areas such as faceoffs and speed.

"It was a pretty short summer, so I just tried to make the most of it," Crosby said. "We finished June 9 this year, so it was a similar situation to the year we won -- pretty much the same length of summer, and going into an Olympic year as well. I just tried to use that summer [of 2009] as a guide."

There is one glaring difference. The Penguins played until June 12 in 2009 because they were busy winning the Stanley Cup. They played until nearly that late this year because the lockout pushed the playoffs back some and because the Penguins advanced to the Eastern Conference final before being swept by Boston.

Crosby is determined not to let the stunning loss to the Bruins carry over to 2013-14.

"Well, 28 other teams do the same thing," he said of bouncing back after not reaching the Cup final.

"Trust me, we don't like losing. We know we could have done some things better. But that's the game. You have to perform. We dissect everything. We had a really good regular season, put ourselves in a good position."

The Penguins finished first in the East with 72 points in 48 games. Then, they beat the New York Islanders in six games and the Ottawa in five, setting up the conference final against Boston.

"We got tested against the Islanders," Crosby said. "They played really well. Just because it's a first-round matchup doesn't mean it's automatic that you're going through [to the next round]. It was a tight series. We found a way to win that. Then, we had a great series against Ottawa."

Against the Bruins, Crosby and fellow center Evgeni Malkin were held without a point in the four-game series loss.

"We didn't capitalize on our chances and ran into a bit of a hot goalie [in Tuukka Rask] in Boston," Crosby said. "That's the way it works sometimes. We're not satisfied with that, but I don't think we're coming in here thinking that we're a big failure or anything like that. We're going to build off of things and, hopefully, learn from it as well."

penguins

For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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