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Crosby enjoys being one of Canada's guys

by Dan Rosen

"I had a lot of fun and I think I learned a lot about what is expected and also about all the other players here, too. I didn't know a lot of guys here personally and to see some guys and meet them was a lot of fun. I'm pretty clear on what's expected and what's going on."
-- Sidney Crosby

CALGARY -- Sidney Crosby got a little taste of what it's like to be a 22-year-old first-timer at an Olympic orientation camp Thursday night.

First, Martin Brodeur stoned the Pittsburgh Penguins' captain, who is about as close to a lock to make the Canadian Olympic squad as Brodeur, with a brilliant glove save on a shot targeted for the upper left-hand corner of the net less than six minutes into the game.

"He baited me pretty good there," Crosby said. "He showed me all glove and he knew it was going there, so he made a good save. He forced me to go there."

Twelve minutes into the second period, Crosby was whistled for hooking, a call he vehemently disagreed with. Turns out he had a point, but he wasn't going to win the argument because it was more Mike Babcock's call than the official's.

"(The official) explained that he needed to make sure there were power plays on both sides," Crosby said. "It kind of sucked that I was the guinea pig, but that's alright. That's how it works."

For four days in Calgary Crosby was something he strives to be -- just one of the boys. He is still arguably the most recognizable hockey player in Canada today, but his orientation camp experience re-affirmed his belief that only hard work will get him on this team, even if people are telling him he's already going to be the No. 1 center.

"I don't really think like that and I don't think you can afford to as a player," Crosby said. "You have to prove yourself. I have been told a lot of things throughout my career and you can't afford to think too far ahead. As an athlete you always force yourself to make sure you are always proving yourself and always learning. That's what I'm thinking going into the season."

Crosby said any uneasiness he had heading into the camp is long gone now. The goal here was for the staff to get across to all of the players exactly how they're going to play and how the logistics of being in the Olympics works. Crosby gives Hockey Canada an A-plus for their efforts this week.

"I thought it was great," he said. "I had a lot of fun and I think I learned a lot about what is expected and also about all the other players here, too. I didn't know a lot of guys here personally and to see some guys and meet them was a lot of fun. I'm pretty clear on what's expected and what's going on."

Perhaps the only thing not cut and dry now is who Crosby will play with in Vancouver. It appears Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash would be the frontrunner to be on his left wing considering the two were together all week, but the right side is up for grabs.

Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla played there Monday and Tuesday and it appeared things were going well. Babcock shifted Martin St. Louis to that line Wednesday and the trio found chemistry, too.

Iginla started Thursday night's scrimmage with Crosby and Nash, but after two relatively ineffective periods for the Flames' leader, Babcock moved St. Louis back to that line and Iginla to a line with Derek Roy and Jonathan Toews.

The White squad had a better third period as a result.

"I didn't like the line. I didn't think they were doing enough," Babcock said of why he swapped Iginla for St. Louis. "That team was outshot 17-7 in the first and 12-7 in the second.

"I wasn't on their bench in the first period and a half and the tendency as a coach is to watch your own guys, so I thought something was going good until I watched them," Babcock continued. "We decided to fix that and I thought we competed way harder in the third and ended up getting back even. In the end it was a pretty good hockey game."

Crosby, though, said he was comfortable playing with both Iginla and St. Louis, two drastically different players.

"It's hard because you're playing with such great players and you want to get them the puck," he said. "You're thinking so much and when it comes down to a game you can't afford to think. There was a feeling-out process, but I thought both combinations had some chances and that's what you want to do. That's the purpose of this, to learn from each other and bring some positives from it. I thought we did that."

One thing Crosby learned quite quickly is how Babcock runs his practices and what kind of leader this guy really is. He's battled against the Red Wings coach in back to back Stanley Cup Final, but after four days in Calgary he has a new appreciation for him.

"I think it's pretty clear why Detroit is always so good," Crosby said. "He's well organized. He can make sure everybody understands what they need to do, but he makes guys accountable out there and makes sure they're doing the right things in practice. For us in Pittsburgh, we have started to kind of play a similar style, more up-tempo game, and we see how much more fun that is to play. That is something he's focused on. It's pretty clear to see why Detroit is a successful team each year."

The up-tempo style Dan Bylsma implemented in Pittsburgh actually made Crosby's transition to Babcock's camp much easier.

"If you look at Detroit's system, our system and the way we play here there are a lot of similarities, so for me it was great," Crosby said. "A lot of the drills we do in practice were the same type of thing we are doing in Pittsburgh."

In Pittsburgh, though, Crosby is undoubtedly the man. Here in Calgary this week, he was content to just fit in and be a sponge around the guys who have been there before.
He got what he came for.

"Guys have a lot of pride in their play and being Canadian," Crosby said. "I thought we saw that this week."

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