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Crosby not going to speculate on Penguins' championship window

Center unconcerned after Malkin, Letang discuss how many Stanley Cup opportunities remain

by Wes Crosby / Independent Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Sidney Crosby won't consider if the Pittsburgh Penguins' championship window is closing. He probably never will.

"I don't think any of us can predict that," Pittsburgh's 32-year-old captain said Sunday. "It's up to everyone else to decide what the window is and speculate on that. I think the way we train, the expectations on us, they're always going to be there."

Three of Crosby's teammates have said their chances to win another Stanley Cup championship are running out.

Defenseman Kris Letang first mentioned it after an informal skate Tuesday, when he said he's another year closer to retirement. When camp opened Friday, forward Evgeni Malkin said he thinks the Penguins have between two and four more opportunities before forward Patric Hornqvist put the window at three or four seasons.

But, in line with what coach Mike Sullivan said Saturday, Crosby said he is solely looking toward this season. Next season will have his full attention when it arrives. That pattern will continue as long as Crosby plays.

Crosby, who won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009, 2016 and 2017, said that he doesn't mind his teammates thinking differently. It just wouldn't work for him.

Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Crosby

"I just think that, for me personally, it doesn't motivate me or push me any harder to know that I have a four-year window," Crosby said. "I think it's a challenge every year. That's enough. That's what you focus on."

Pittsburgh was swept in four games by the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. At his season-ending press conference April 18, general manager Jim Rutherford questioned if the players had become content after winning the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017. 

Crosby didn't disregard that claim when training camp opened Friday.

"I think there's a certain level of hunger you have to have getting through the playoffs, urgency and desperation," Crosby said. "You can't wait until you're down 2-0 or 3-0 before you find that. Sometimes you think, because you have experience, that automatically gives you an edge. It does if you use it, but if you don't, then it doesn't do much for you. So, I think that urgency and that hunger, there's something to be said about that."

Any perceived complacency may have led to a slight retooling of the roster. Forward Phil Kessel, an important member of the 2016 and 2017 Cup winners, was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for forward Alex Galchenyuk on June 29. Forward Dominik Kahun was acquired in a trade from the Chicago Blackhawks on June 15, and forward Brandon Tanev signed a six-year contract July 1.

Video: Daneyko reflects on the career of Sidney Crosby

Each of the three newcomers has practiced in Pittsburgh's top-six forward group the first several days of camp. 

"That energy is hard to match when guys get opportunities, when they get a fresh start and they come to a new team," said Crosby, who has been the center on the first line with Kahun at right wing. "I think there's always something to be said about that, the energy they bring. So whether it's youth, or a guy from a different team coming in, I think little things like that go a long way. That can definitely help us."

But the Penguins don't look all that different from when they were swept five months ago. That's fine by Crosby. Instead of wondering how many good years this group has left, he'd rather use history as an argument for why it should stay open.

"We probably weren't talking about a championship team in December of '16, but we found a way to win, right?" Crosby said. "So I think you just approach it a year at a time. You prepare to be at your best. As a team, you want to win the ultimate prize every year, no matter how old you are. I think you approach every year the same."

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