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50 goals and Sid? You never know

by Phil Coffey
How hot is Sidney Crosby?

Well, not only was he named the NHL's No. 1 Star for the week ending Nov. 30, but he also topped's weekly Hot List. According to Hot List master John Kreiser, Crosby made the list by "making a mad dash up the scoring ladder. He put up 6 goals and 3 assists in a four-day stretch last week, capped by a hat trick and an assist in Saturday's 4-1 victory against New Jersey.

"Crosby has had multi-point performances in four of Pittsburgh's last five games. He's now second in the NHL scoring race with 34 points, trailing only teammate (and sometime linemate) Evgeni Malkin, who has 39. And for anyone who thinks that he's not so special -- well, maybe it's time to think again."

The Penguins are sitting pretty in the Eastern Conference right about now. At 14-6-3, they trail the New York Rangers by five points in the Atlantic Division but have played four fewer games, and they take on the Rangers on Wednesday night.

With 13 goals in 23 games, Crosby's early season scoring slump -- Remember when he only had three goals? -- is a distant memory.

Which got folks to talking on an NHL conference call with "El Sid" Monday -- can he score 50 in a season? He netted 39 as a rookie in 2005-06, scored 36 in his second season and scored 24 in just 53 games in his third season.

A sublime playmaker, you wonder if Crosby can resist the urge to set up his talented teammates enough to score enough goals.

"I've never really thought about it," Crosby said of the 50-goal milestone. "I don't think it's something I really think about a whole lot.

"I don't consider myself a sniper, per se. But, you know, I think of the guys that score 50, you look at guys like (Dany) Heatley, (Alex) Ovechkin, guys like this. But you never know. It depends on the season, basically the opportunities you get and your ability to capitalize on them. You know, there're a lot of things that can affect that. It would be something I'd love to do for sure. But whether or not it's possible, I really couldn't tell you."

OK, fair enough. You take what the game gives you on many occasions, but doesn't Crosby have some numbers stashed away in the back of his head when he comes into a new season?
"Just to be consistent," Crosby said, thwarting another theory. "We've been playing good hockey, so I just want to make sure that I'm personally consistent, keep contributing. Personally, I don't really think a whole lot as far as numbers go, but I just want to make sure that consistency's there."

Crosby and Malkin give the Pens an embarrassment of riches at center. You have to feel for the opposition, who just get one scoring threat off the ice only to see another hop over the boards.

"Well, it's fun," Crosby admitted. "I mean, we want to make sure that individually we're doing our best to contribute. But it's really nice to share that with someone. Hopefully we can continue to produce and help our team."

Crosby said his recent goal-scoring barrage has been more the product of luck than a concerted effort to score. Of course, being blessed with an abundance of talent also makes luck that much luckier.

"Well, capitalizing on chances, probably getting a few more. I played with Gino (Malkin) a few times, too, so that never hurts," he said, ticking off the reasons for his success. "Probably a few different things. But, you know, sometimes that's just the way it goes. Sometimes you get some bounces and some breaks and they go in. There're other times where you've got to fight a little more to get them. You know, you just try to do the same things and hopefully the results eventually come.

"It's just more or less putting a string of games together, being a little more consistent, getting some bounces, too. You know, everything has kind of come together a little bit more. But I feel like I've played better and been rewarded for that."

Wait a second, back up -- did Crosby just say he has been playing on a line with Malkin "a few times?" Isn't that against the rules, and if it isn't, perhaps it should be.

"Yeah, it's a lot of fun. I think we've gotten used to each other," Crosby said. "We've played together for a while now. I think we enjoy it."

But the divide-and-conquer approach has its benefits, too.

"It's one of the those things where, you know, hopefully if teams are going to focus on one of us, the other guy's going to get a little more space," Crosby said. "When we're on the road together that happens a bit. Give other teams a different look. I think we both kind of benefit just because I think we get a little more space individually."

Author: Phil Coffey | Sr. Editorial Director

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