WINNIPEG — Whatever the fans have for him tonight at the MTS Centre, Sidney Crosby said this morning he can’t wait to hear it.
The Pittsburgh Penguins captain went all smiles after today’s morning skate, ahead of tonight’s contest against the Winnipeg Jets (7 p.m., TSN, TSN1290), professing to have kept up with the fans’ clever barbs and taunts of players opposing their Jets.
It’s Crosby’s first game in Winnipeg in an NHL uniform. He played for Team Canada here in late 2004 ahead of the World Juniors in Grand Forks, N.D.
Crosby said he won’t be startled if the fans start in with him tonight.
"No, I’ve had a couple of laughs just watching some other games and hearing some of the things that have come up with," he said. "I’m pretty sure they’re pretty creative.
"I’ve seen that before. I’ve played in Philadelphia for a long time now and if I can get through that, hopefully I’m somewhat prepared for what happens tonight.
"It’s all in good fun."
Crosby said he had heard about the MTS faithful giving Washington’s Alex Ovechkin the "Crosby’s better," chant last season.
"I heard about that," he said. "They come up with everything. I think they were giving Staalsy (Carolina’s Eric Staal, or maybe his brother, former teammate Jordan) a hard time at one point. They’ll find something. Most times, like I said, I dont’ hear it but that one might be hard not to hear.
"It’s funny because you’ll never know what they’re going to come up with. It’s usually pretty original."
Crosby’s earlier experience here was a good one, he said this morning.
"I have great memories of playing here," he said of skating for Team Canada under coach Brent Sutter in 2004-05. "I remember just the crowd for an exhibition game, remember how exciting that was, the environment. And obviously playing in North Dakota, if felt like it was a home event for us with so many people coming down from Winnipeg to watch that.
"We spent some time in Gimli, had training camp there."
Crosby was asked about the potential of another NHL franchise returning to Canada, in particular in Quebec, where he played games as a junior.
"I had a great experience playing there at the Colisee, 15,000 people at a junior game," Crosby said. "Yeah, it would be amazing. They love hockey there. As far as the economics, if that works then it would be a great place and we all know about the rivalry with Montreal, how great that is. It could be great for hockey.
"We’ll have to see how that will fit in."
Through three games this season, Crosby has one goal and two assists, but says he’s himself and is playing the same way, after missing so much of last season because of post-concussion syndrome.
"If anything you’ve got to keep doing the same things," he said. "If you look at those plays, it’s pretty rare that I would go to those areas and not be aware. I can’t really fault myself on some of those plays that happened. It was bad luck. One, I really didn’t have the puck.
"I like to think I’m pretty aware out there, where I am on the ice. It’s part of the game. If you get caught, you get caught. But you like to make sure you’re aware of where you are on the ice.
"That being said, sometimes when you hesistate, that’s when you set yourself up to get really hit, so you try to just play the same way."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Crosby is as good as always.
"Those questions were asked after Games 1 and 2, noting he had just one assist but he led our team in even-strength chances in New York but didn’t score a goal," Bylsma said. "There were real opportunities for him to score two or three or four easily in the first two games and it didn’t happen for him.
"But he’s Sidney Crosby. He’s dangerous at both ends of the rink. He’s added some penalty kill to what he’s doing this year for our team and I think he’s the best player in the world and he’s been there."
Today, Crosby decided the minus-25 C morning temperature was no big deal and he walked about four blocks outdoors from the team’s hotel to the MTS Centre.
"I just wanted to get outside and experience a Canadian winter again," Crosby smiled. "Believe it or not, you miss it a little bit, you miss seeing the snow.
"It’s hockey weather so it was nice to get out. It was definitely a good reminder of how cold it is. I definitely forgot how cold it was.
"I was well-dressed. It wasn’t too long a walk. If it was any longer, it might have been a little tough."