CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby walked to his stall in the back of the locker room at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex after his first training-camp practice Tuesday.
He walked through a horde of reporters who turned to follow and worked their way around a few bags to crowd the Penguins captain. Crosby took off his helmet, placed it atop the locker, sat and put on a hat before lifting his head, signaling he was ready.
First question: "What have you been up to?"
Crosby's response: "Not much."
Since defeating the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on June 12, Crosby headlined a championship parade through downtown Pittsburgh. He took the Stanley Cup to his hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. He captained Team Canada during its run to the World Cup of Hockey 2016 championship and was named MVP after he had three goals and a tournament-high 10 points in six games.
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Crosby returned to Pittsburgh shortly after Team Canada's 2-1 win against Team Europe in Game 2 of the best-of-3 championship series Sept. 29. He could have taken more time away if he wanted but decided to return Tuesday and begin working toward his goal of winning the Stanley Cup for a third time.
"[The World Cup players] don't want to be away too long because they don't want to lose what they gained to this point," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "Sid felt as though he wanted to join the group today and we're certainly glad to have him out there."
The last time Crosby and the Penguins attempted to repeat as Stanley Cup champion, in 2009-10, they finished second in the Atlantic Division with 101 points but lost to the Montreal Canadiens in seven games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
That experience has shaped Crosby's expectations entering this season.
"It's difficult," Crosby said of trying to repeat as champion. "There's a reason why it hasn't been done for a long time (not since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings). Everybody wants to beat you. Everyone is measuring themselves against you. You have to be ready every night and expect everyone's best.
"To win you have to be lucky too. You do a lot of things right, but you have to be lucky. So you need to play as well as you did in the year previous, and when you get some bounces you have to put yourself in the position to kind of create your own luck."
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The Penguins will return their championship lineup almost nearly intact, which allowed Crosby to join practice with a sense of familiarity. He centered the first line between left wing Chris Kunitz and right wing Conor Sheary.
"It's nice having that luxury of having played together," Crosby said. "For the most part, I think that's the case. So it shouldn't take long to kind of adapt. Playing kind of long into last year, I think that intensity, that desperation that you kind of finish off the season with, hopefully we can kind of carry that on to start the season."
Forward Carl Hagelin, who played for Team Sweden during the World Cup, also returned Tuesday and reunited the "HBK Line" with left wing Phil Kessel and center Nick Bonino.
"A lot of familiar faces," Hagelin said. "It's the same focus as last year, so it's an easy transition. … I'm just excited to be here, be back and to play some games here."
Hagelin and Crosby each said the World Cup afforded them the opportunity to get into game shape earlier than they normally would. However, Crosby said he's looking to manage his condition after playing through the tournament.
"When you're playing a lot of hockey it's more comfortable," Crosby said. "I just have to balance rest and recovery and make sure you're ready to play. From everything I've heard it's been a great [training] camp. Guys look really good. … I think just like everyone else, you want to make sure you're ready."
Before turning their attention to the season, the Penguins will take one last look back at their championship Thursday when they visit President Barack Obama at the White House. Crosby visited the White House after winning the Stanley Cup in 2009 and is looking forward to returning.
"I'm excited," Crosby said. "Having gone there before, just to kind of get some good photographs and get to see all the different rooms and see the Oval Office. So it's fun too, just for the new guys, to see their reaction. I think that will be fun too. So I'm excited to go there."