LOS ANGELES -- Their hockey careers have been on a fascinating collision course for more than a decade and will likely be so many more times before Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals finally skate off into retirement.
But the longtime rivals will be teammates at the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Staples Center on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).
For them to be working together on the same side is an exceedingly rare occurrence but not unprecedented, which Crosby helpfully pointed out Saturday.
Many years ago and many formats ago they were kids, representing the East against the West at the 2007 All-Star Game in Dallas. Since then, Crosby has won two Stanley Cup championships and two Olympic gold medals for Team Canada. Ovechkin is still looking to burnish his resume on those fronts.
The game in Dallas will be like a relic compared to the current All-Star Game with its 3-on-3 format. That, and some added luster with a last-minute development: Coaching the likes of Crosby and Ovechkin will be none other than NHL legend Wayne Gretzky, who was named coach of the Metropolitan Division team on Saturday. Gretzky is replacing Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella because of a family emergency.
Gretzky was at a news conference on Friday with Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux and said that they would have been pretty good at 3-on-3. You suspect he'll enjoy coaching Crosby and Ovechkin in that format.
"Obviously it's going to be fun," Ovechkin said. "We're going to ask the coach what's the line? Who is going to be on the line and which line it's going to be? I'm pretty sure if it's going to be like that, it's going to be fun."
Said Crosby: "Listen, I've seen him enough, and I see the way he shoots the puck, so you've got to make sure you find him anywhere over the blue line and it's got a chance to go in. It's tough playing against him, but you try to take advantage of playing with him."
Almost everyone feels sorry for the goaltenders in these high-wire situations, and rightly so. But what about the defensemen?
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty is expecting the worst and nodded when he was asked about Crosby and Ovechkin.
"That's be a tough duo to get by. We'll have to put our shutdown pair out there against them," he said, smiling. "Three-on-3, I'm expecting to be made to look like a fool at least once out there. Sometimes when you're playing with this caliber of players, you have to tip your hat to them and accept the fact you're going to be made to look foolish."
Video: Accuracy Shooting: Crosby takes the lead
Said New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh: "I'm kind of glad I'm on the same (Metropolitan Division) team. Two of the top players in our league. It will be fun to see that dynamic. You talk about one, if not the best, playmaker and passer (Crosby) potentially giving it to the guy (Ovechkin) who has one of the best shots."
McDonagh thought about what he was saying and laughed.
"I just hope I'm on the ice there to see what happens," he said.
The respective games of Crosby and Ovechkin have not stayed static this season; Crosby is shooting more and, thusly, scoring more, a League-leading 28 goals in 42 games. Ovechkin's goals and assists are nearly equal, interestingly enough, 23 to 22.
Someone kidded Ovechkin, the new facilitator, about different looks he and Crosby have offered this season.
"Yes," he said, smiling. "So we switch positions."
Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby was around just in case anyone was taking this playmaking thing a little too far. He said that Ovechkin has had good chemistry in recent weeks with Capitals linemates T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom.
"He's still a shooter," Holtby said. "Nick's starting to shoot the puck a lot more, which probably helps in [Ovechkin's] assist category. When [Ovechkin's] getting assists, it's a five-man unit that's going. A lot of it comes from teams giving too much respect to [Ovechkin], which opens up a lot of the rest of the ice."
Like everyone else, he is curious to see how it goes with Crosby and Ovechkin.
"It'll be interesting," Holtby said. "Obviously, everyone knows their careers and the success they've had and they are pretty much polar opposites as players."
Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, the Central Division coach, has been thinking about the prospect of facing Crosby and Ovechkin in the All-Star Game. Boudreau was Ovechkin's coach in Washington from 2007-11 and has seen enough of Crosby to last a lifetime.
"You hope they miss on their chance because they're going to get an opportunity," Boudreau said. "They're going to get 2-on-1s and if they don't score, you're going to have a 2-on-1.
"It's not going to be a stalemate where nobody gets chances on the ice. I think it's going to be great for hockey."