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Therrien reflects on role developing Crosby

by Tal Pinchevsky

Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien coached two full seasons and parts of two others with the Pittsburgh Penguins. After being promoted from coach of the team's American Hockey League team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he led the Penguins to the 2008 Stanley Cup Final and helped to groom a young core that eventually won it all in 2009 without him.

Facing his former team for the first time Saturday in Montreal, the coach of the first-place Canadiens was able to look back fondly on his time with the Penguins.

"I really enjoyed my time in Pittsburgh," Therrien said following the team's morning skate. "We loved the city and the fans. But we have to move on. I have a new challenge here in Montreal."

Therrien can be forgiven for not wanting to dwell too much on the past. His current team started the day as the top team in the Eastern Conference. And with a back-to-back this weekend against two likely playoff teams, Pittsburgh and the Boston Bruins, he's looking forward to Saturday night's game.

Part of his strategy against the Penguins will be finding a way to shut down Sidney Crosby, who came into Saturday's action leading the League with 22 assists and tied with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos for the NHL scoring lead with 31 points.

Among Therrien's responsibilities in Pittsburgh was the crucial task of developing then 18-year-old Crosby into a true NHL player. In that he succeeded. With Therrien as his coach, Crosby won the Art Ross and Hart Memorial trophies in 2007. He was 19 at the time.

"I had Sidney when he was 18. When I first talked to him I said, 'My goal is to make sure you become the best player in the NHL,'" Therrien said. "I didn't know that at 19 he was going to become the best player in the NHL. He got the title that year."

In four years since he was replaced in Pittsburgh by current Penguins bench boss Dan Bylsma, Therrien's influence is acknowledged by the players who remain from that era, during which the team developed from a young, raw squad into a Stanley Cup contender.

"He gave me a lot of opportunities and responsibility at a pretty young age. Definitely had an influence on my career," Crosby said of Therrien following Pittsburgh's morning skate in Montreal. "It's been a long time, but definitely happy to see him back. Looks like he's doing pretty well."

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