PITTSBURGH (AP) - Sidney Crosby is still speaking softly, only now he's carrying a different stick.
The Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins captain plans to use a one-piece synthetic hockey stick for the first time during the season-opener Friday night against the New York Rangers.
Previously, Crosby used a two-piece stick that consisted of a wooden blade attached to a synthetic shaft. In the NHL, wooden sticks have become about as common as wooden bats in Little League baseball.
"I'm really happy with the way it's coming along," Crosby said Thursday. "I haven't had any issues and I'm pretty confident with it."
Most NHL players switched to composite material sticks several years ago because they believe it increases the velocity of their shots and makes the pucks harder to stop.
Crosby has noticed a difference since he began working with the composite sticks during the Penguins' short offseason.
"I think my shot's a little harder, yeah," Crosby said. "We'll see how it works in a game. Definitely in practice I feel like I'm able to get a little more on my shots."
Switching sticks hasn't forced Crosby to alter the mechanics of his shot, with the main difference being the synthetic blades have a different feel. For a player who becomes accustomed to using the same stick for years, it can require some break-in time to become comfortable.
"If I can still have the same feel I had with my other stick, that's a plus," Crosby said.
While it is likely that wooden sticks may not be produced in volume in the near future, Crosby has a stockpile of them and could revert to his familiar stick this season if the newer model becomes uncomfortable.