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Sidney Crosby ready for Connor McDavid matchup

Penguins captain understands excitement for first game against top pick of 2015 NHL Draft

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Sidney Crosby met a then 16-year-old Connor McDavid on Feb. 10, 2013.

More than three years later, Crosby and McDavid will meet again, this time on the ice at PPG Paints Arena, where the Pittsburgh Penguins will face the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ROOT, SNW, NHL.TV).

Even without a previous matchup, Crosby is well-versed on McDavid's accomplishments through his first 58 NHL games. After a lengthy wait, Crosby said he understands the hype surrounding his first game against McDavid.

"I think once you get out there, I think that's the best part," Crosby said. "I think the competitive side kind of takes over. There's matchups every night like that. I mean, some aren't talked about as much as others, but there's some that, personally, you feel like are a bit more of a matchup than people think, just because of history or what you expect against certain guys.

"I think that competition is why you play. It's what you love about the game. But I mean, some are talked about more than others and obviously, [Tuesday] will be one that's talked about a little bit more. But at the end of the day you're going out there trying to get two points. They all mean the same, but you definitely understand the situation."

The anticipated matchup was put on hold a little more than one year ago. McDavid fractured his left clavicle Nov. 3, 2015 and missed three months, including the Oilers' two games against Crosby and the Penguins, Nov. 6 and Nov. 28.

Crosby, who had an assist in each game, complimented McDavid's play Monday.

"I think just, his speed stands out the most," Crosby said. "I think that allows him to do so many other things, but he sees the ice really well. He's strong on the puck. I think just his hockey sense and his speed are probably the biggest things that [stand out], I think."

Video: PIT@SJS: Crosby banks one in off Jones

With Crosby and McDavid finally facing off Tuesday, it seems fitting each has flourished through one month this season.

The Penguins (8-2-2) have won five of six games (5-0-1) since Crosby returned from a concussion that forced him to miss the first six games of the season. Crosby's eight goals are tied with Chicago Blackhawks forward Artem Anisimov and Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine for the NHL lead.

Crosby has 10 points, and at least one in all six games he's played.

McDavid has slowed a bit from his explosive start of five goals and 12 points in his first eight games; in his past five he has no goals and two assists. Despite that dip, he's tied for fourth in the NHL with 14 points.

The Oilers (9-3-1) have rebounded from three straight losses with two consecutive wins entering Tuesday.

"We're obviously going to have to be aware when he's on the ice," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of McDavid. "It'll be a big test for our team."

Video: EDM@VAN: McDavid shows off speed, finishes five-hole

Crosby and McDavid shared similar paths to the NHL.

During the lead-up to the 2005 NHL Draft, Crosby garnered comparisons to Oilers great Wayne Gretzky. After being drafted with the first pick by the Penguins, Crosby had 39 goals and 102 points as a rookie in 2005-06 and finished second to Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin in the Calder Trophy race.

McDavid garnered comparisons to Crosby during the lead-up to the 2015 draft. After being picked No. 1 by the Oilers, McDavid had 16 goals and 48 points in 45 games as a rookie in 2015-16, and was third, behind Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere in the Calder Trophy race.

McDavid was named Oilers captain entering this season, his second in the NHL. Crosby was named Penguins captain following the 2006-07 season, his second in the NHL.

Now their paths finally will cross on the ice.

Crosby knows he was McDavid's favorite player. McDavid said as much when he met Crosby and Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux following the Penguins' 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 10, 2013. McDavid was playing for Erie of the Ontario Hockey League and was invited to the game by the Penguins.

Looking back on his rookie season, Crosby remembered anticipating meeting two of his idols, Steve Yzerman and Peter Forsberg. After joking that he's old, Crosby, 29, said playing the role of elder statesman Tuesday would be unusual for him.

"It's a little different," Crosby said. "It changes. That's life. I think it's a challenge either way and you get excited for that competition, but I think you're used to being on the other side of it."

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