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Crosby enthusiastic about Penguins' three-peat bid

'Just a matter of making sure we're ready for the challenges,' captain says

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Sidney Crosby began Thursday by skating with the Pittsburgh Penguins prospects at their practice facility in Cranberry, Pennsylvania, in the morning before flying up to participate in the NHL Player Media Tour here at the NBC Sports complex in the afternoon.

With training camp starting on Sept. 15, Crosby didn't want to miss a day on the ice.

"I just wanted to keep skating," the 30-year-old center said before heading back to Pittsburgh in the evening. "I haven't skated that many days in a row, so I just wanted to keep going."

After winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy each of the past two seasons, along with another championship and the MVP award at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 last September, Crosby isn't ready to sit back and rest on his laurels. He mixed a few more rest days into his training schedule to try to recharge his body after playing in 203 NHL games (including the Stanley Cup Playoffs) plus six more at the World Cup the past two seasons, but even after another short offseason, he's already moved on to his next objective.

That, of course, is to try to win the Stanley Cup for a third consecutive season. No team has done that since the New York Islanders won it four straight seasons from 1979-80 to 1982-83, but the Penguins know a little bit about making history after becoming the first repeat champions in the NHL since the Detroit Red Wings in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

"The cool thing was the unknown last year of not knowing what that was going to be like," Crosby said. "You set out saying, 'Hey, we want to do this again, but actually how are we going to do it?' It's not easy and we had a ton of injuries. It's great that we were able to find a way because that's what we set out to do. We learned a lot from that experience and we're sitting here asking ourselves the same thing: 'How are we going to do it again?' 

"I love that challenge."

Video: Sidney Crosby lands the No. 2 spot

The chase for the Stanley Cup is what continues to drive Crosby and allows him to hold off those trying to chase him down as the top player in the League. Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid led the NHL with 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists) and won the Hart Trophy as League MVP last season, but he was among the many on the player media tour who didn't hesitate to name Crosby as the best in the NHL.

"He's done it all. He's won it all," McDavid said. "Individual, team, you name it, he's done it. He's a guy that I think everyone's kind of looked up to, and he's that guy for a reason."

Crosby, who led the NHL with 44 goals and tied Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane for second in points with 89 last season, appreciated the compliment, but humbly gave one back to McDavid.

"I think he proved last year that he's the best," Crosby said. 

Although Crosby is heading into his 13th NHL season, he said it's "weird" to think that he's the one younger players are trying to catch now.

"I don't know if I'm really at that point where I'm used to it yet," he said. "I'm one of the older guys on the team now with our group, and that doesn't seem like that when you're used to being the younger kid. When I grew up playing hockey, I was always the youngest guy on my team. I played up. I was always chasing those older guys. So, it's new, but it's a new challenge too."

Video: The guys choose the top five Crosby moments

It wouldn't be surprising to see Crosby rise to that challenge too. After training with him again this offseason in their hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon marveled at how Crosby continues to push himself regardless of how much he has won.

"He enjoys it for a week, I think, and then he just wants to win more," MacKinnon said.

Crosby knows it won't be easy to win the Stanley Cup three seasons in a row. He's heard the stories of how the Penguins' previous bid for three in a row ended in 1992-93.  

That season, the Penguins set their records for wins (56) and points (119), but they lost to the Islanders in Game 7 of the Patrick Division Final on David Volek's overtime goal.

"I remember talking to [Penguins] alumni and them saying, 'We felt that was our best team of all three,'" Crosby said. "And that's the one that lost."

Crosby also knows the Penguins might not be as good this season, at least not at the start. They lost many significant players in the offseason, including forwards Chris Kunitz (signed with Tampa Bay Lightning), Nick Bonino (signed with Nashville Predators) and Matt Cullen (signed with Minnesota Wild), defensemen Trevor Daley (signed with Detroit Red Wings) and Ron Hainsey (signed with Toronto Maple Leafs), and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (claimed by Vegas Golden Knights in NHL Expansion Draft).

But much of the Penguins core remains intact, including Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang and Matt Murray, and general manager Jim Rutherford has demonstrated an ability to fill needs as the season progresses.

"We know the odds aren't on our side. That's OK," Crosby said. "We have a group that believes in one another, and it's going to take a lot of things to go right, but why not? We're coming in with the mindset and mentality that we can find a way to do it again and it's just a matter of making sure we're ready for the challenges we're going to face to be able to do it."

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