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Crosby 1K: Crosby Appreciative of Momentous Milestone

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

For a while now, Sidney Crosby has been trying to step back and really, truly appreciate everything that comes with playing in the NHL.

When the Pens won the Stanley Cup last June, he made sure to savor every moment, knowing just how hard it is to get there after seven years between his two championships.

When he went to the NHL All-Star Game last month, Crosby was vocal about how fortunate he felt to be there with that group of players and that he was enjoying it as much as he could.

Now, having reached 1,000 points in his career with his primary assist on Chris Kunitz's goal on Feb. 16 against Winnipeg, Crosby is cognizant of just how momentous of a milestone that is - and is making sure he continues to keep having perspective.

"I understand when you get to those numbers, as you get older, there's only so many cracks you have at certain ones like this," the 29-year-old said. "I think that I don't feel old, but I feel like there are times maybe when you're younger and it's kind of an extension of junior hockey, where you're used to getting certain milestones and it becomes easy. I think you look at it a little bit differently as you get older and it's something you try to enjoy a little bit more."

And the rest of the hockey world is appreciating him right back. That was never more apparent than it was in Los Angeles during the All-Star festivities, as the game's greatest players - both past and present - marveled about how Crosby is still, without question, the best in the world in his 12th NHL season.

And reaching milestones like this, in the short time that he did, only furthers that reasoning.

"He's the best player in the game," Wayne Gretzky said. "He's earned that mantle, and his work ethic is as good or better than anybody in hockey."

That work ethic is what has stood out to Gretzky, and Mario Lemieux, and pretty much every person who's played with and against him.

"He's the hardest-working guy out there," Lemieux said. "Whether it's at practice or a 3-on- 3 game at practice, he wants to win, he wants to be the best."

To Crosby's teammates and his peers around the league, what's most impressive about the achievement is how quickly he did it.

Crosby - who is the 86th player in NHL history to record 1,000 points - hit the milestone in just 757 games, fewer than any active player. He accomplished it in fewer games than all but 11 NHL players all-time. And the scary part? He probably could have reached it a lot quicker if it wasn't for injury.

For example, Alex Ovechkin - who entered the league in 2005 alongside Crosby - reached 1,000 points on Jan. 11 in a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh. It took Ovechkin 880 games to get there.

"We started at the same time, and obviously I think if he was not injured he would have passed it a little bit earlier," Ovechkin said. "But a thousand points, when you reach that milestone, it's really good."

"The pace he has done it-if he would have been healthy for a few more years it would have been something he could have done a season or two ago," Kunitz said. "It's such a huge milestone in a career for a guy who has plenty left in him."

Crosby missed the most significant amount of time in his career between the 2010-11 and '11 12 seasons. He was out for 61 consecutive games with a concussion and neck issues, and there were moments when he wondered if he would ever play again - much less get back to this level.

"When you go that long without playing and start to realize you're really improving as much, it's hard for it not to creep into your mind," Crosby said. "But it's one of those things you just have to try and stay focused on and take it a day at a time and look for improvement. I think that's the biggest thing, just being patient and taking it one step at a time.

"But there's a lot of different things that go through your head. Playing again, getting to the level you think you can get to if it does happen that you can get back. There's a lot of time kind of sitting around and waiting. It's hard for that not to cross your mind."

Now, Crosby is back at that level, back to being the best player in the game, and doesn't show any signs of stopping. If anything, he seems to be getting even hungrier as time goes on.

"Whenever you think he's kind of reached his ceiling, he just finds another level and just keeps pushing," said Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews, who's won numerous championships alongside Crosby with Team Canada. "You see some of these young, talented players that are coming into the league nowadays and challenging him and some of the other top guys for that top spot, he just seems to continue to rise to the occasion."

And those young, talented players - namely Connor McDavid, who Gretzky named as someone who's chasing Crosby for that - know that they have a lot of work to do before they can reach his level.

"He's the best player in the world, by far," McDavid said. "Just what he does, it's really unbelievable. This guy finds a way to produce every night. Score goals, create plays, even when he doesn't get points he's still creating so much offense. His defensive game is really good as well. So he's an all-around player and he's definitely the best player in the world."

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