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Sid enjoying his time back in Winter Classic spotlight

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Sid enjoying his time back in Winter Classic spotlight
Sidney Crosby loved every second of the first Winter Classic, in Buffalo in 2008. He's enjoying his second experience just as much so far.
Sidney Crosby considers himself lucky to have been part of the first Winter Classic, in Buffalo in 2008.

That feeling hasn't changed now that he's going to play outside again at the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. Crosby's Penguins will host Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on New Year's Day at Heinz Field.

Crosby considers himself privileged once again to be part of the League's biggest regular-season moment, and he plans on enjoying every second of it, just as he did in 2008.

"I don't think the feeling of playing outside, a National Hockey League game, against a big rival, wears off," Crosby said on a conference call Monday. "I think we all feel pretty lucky to be in the game, and for some of us who have played in one already, it's another opportunity to be part of a pretty unique event. The fact we have it in Pittsburgh, against a rival and that it's become such a big event, we all feel lucky to be part of it."

However, Crosby said he doesn't believe he or the Penguins have any significant advantage having been through one Winter Classic before.

"Maybe a bit," said Crosby. "I think everyone has an idea … there may be stoppages, or there may be times when the ice feels slower, whatever the case is, that's to be expected. Whether or not you played in one before, I don't know if it's an advantage. I think for everything around it there might be a bit of an advantage because we've been through it, as far as dealing with conditions, things like that, but both teams should expect the same thing."

Playing outside naturally makes conditions dicey. There could be snow like the Penguins and the Sabres experienced in Buffalo, or there could be rain, or, well, just about anything. The latest weather report for Jan. 1 in Pittsburgh is 44 degrees with a chance of rain -- slightly warm for the area this time of year, and with the rain, the condition of the ice could become an issue. However, Crosby said there's a bigger picture involved upon which the players need to focus.

"It's something that you have to expect to deal with," said Crosby. "To be honest, I think both teams will be the first to tell you that no matter what the conditions or stoppages, they're both happy to be in that game. It's something that's a possibility but it's not something that's unusual for a game like that. That's to be expected. I don't think you're going to hear any complaints. We expect to deal with that. If anything we just cross our fingers and hope all the conditions are well -- more for the crew working on the ice, because they're not going to have an easy job. I think whatever happens, whatever the forecast is, whatever the weather is, we're just happy to be in that game, so everyone will be fine and I don't think you'll hear any complaints."

Fans got a preview of this year's Classic this past Thursday, when the Penguins beat the Capitals 3-2 in a shootout in Washington. That game will be the subject of this week's episode of "24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road To The NHL Winter Classic," which debuts Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.

"That's been a game that we've seen a number of times the last few years," said Crosby. "Exactly that -- really close, chances at both ends, physical and tense, emotional game. That's what you get when these two teams play. I would expect much of the same Saturday."

"I don't think the feeling of playing outside, a National Hockey League game, against a big rival, wears off. I think we all feel pretty lucky to be in the game, and for some of us who have played in one already, it's another opportunity to be part of a pretty unique event. The fact we have it in Pittsburgh, against a rival and that it's become such a big event, we all feel lucky to be part of it." -- Sidney Crosby

As much as Crosby is looking forward to New Year's Day, he and his teammates are looking forward to Friday, when not only will they get to practice for the first time on the Heinz Field ice rink, but the Penguins and Capitals will play an alumni game. Among the more notable participants is Hall of Famer and Pens part-owner Mario Lemieux, who will play in his first game since retiring for the final time during the 2005-06 season.

"I think we're planning on going," said Crosby. "Pretty neat for us. We have different alumni events here in Pittsburgh, usually at least one a year. It's always fun to meet former players. Probably the most fun is seeing them get together. A lot of the guys who played together, see them interact, hear stories from when they played, it's pretty neat, it's always fun. Happy they're able to be part of it."

Crosby also is happy to be part of the event. Like seemingly any other time he's on the big stage, the 2008 Winter Classic became a Crosby instant classic. With snow falling on Ralph Wilson Stadium, he beat the Sabres' Ryan Miller for the winning goal in the shootout.

He'll have another chance at a Classic moment Jan. 1, 2011.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com