PRAGUE-- As an alternate captain and later as captain, Sidney Crosby helped Canada win two consecutive Olympic gold medals, at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Now, after being named captain again, he is on a mission to help Canada win its first IIHF World Championship since 2007.
The Pittsburgh Penguins forward took part in his first practice Thursday at O2 Arena in Prague; Canada begins the 16-nation tournament Friday against Latvia (10:15 a.m. ET).
"I'm excited," Crosby said. "Obviously, it's always a great honor to represent your country and this is a great event. The competition will be very good and I'm excited to be with this group of guys."
Lativa proved to be a tough opponent in the quarterfinals at Sochi. Canada plays Sunday against Germany, but its first tough test likely will be Monday against the Czech Republic, which has a roster that includes Jaromir Jagr of the Florida Panthers and Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers.
"We'll see. We have a lot of talent, lot of speed. We have some big guys, hopefully it's something we can use," Crosby said. "But all of the teams here are good. We have to adjust quickly, but we definitely have a lot of guys who can make some plays out there."
Crosby skated at practice and talked with Flyers center Claude Giroux one day after Canada defeated Austria 4-2 in a preliminary game in Vienna. It appears Crosby will be on a line with Jason Spezza of the Dallas Stars and Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche. Crosby might play with Giroux during power plays, and the NHL rivals are likely to be the offensive leaders for Canada.
"It's a funny thing about hockey. You battle and have some intense games and then you find yourself on one team pretty quickly trying to win together," Crosby said. "It's a great thing about the game. When we go back, it will all get back to normal, but we're teammates here and we're trying to accomplish the same thing."
Crosby will make his second appearance at the World Championship. In Riga, Latvia, in 2006, at 18 years old, he became the youngest player to win the scoring title with eight goals and 16 points in nine games. He was named the tournament's top forward despite Canada's 5-0 loss to Finland in the bronze-medal game.
Since then, the two-time Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy winner has either played deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs with Pittsburgh or rejected invitations because of fatigue or injury. This year, after the Penguins were eliminated by the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round in five games, he accepted the offer the morning after the last game.
"Just wanted to keep playing," the 27-year-old said. "It's tough to lose in the playoffs; you want to play as long as you can. There were a few times when I finished the season I've been pretty banged up and haven't been healthy. The fact that I felt healthy and I wanted to continue to play, and a chance to represent Canada is always a great opportunity, so I was excited for the opportunity to come here this time."
Crosby has a chance to join the Triple Gold Club; players who have won the Stanley Cup, Olympic gold and the World Championship. There are 25 who have won all three titles, and eight of them are from Canada: Rob Blake, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Eric Staal, Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron. Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has also won all three.
"Definitely, it's a motivation," Crosby said. "It would be great to be able to do that. It's not easy; there's only a few guys who have been able to do it. But if it worked out, it would certainly be an honor."
Canada's roster, which has eight Olympians from Sochi and many NHL stars, gives Crosby a chance to win that third title. It will be difficult on larger international ice and against teams whose core players are from European leagues that play together in tournaments throughout the season.
Each team plays seven round-robin games before the quarterfinals. The gold-medal game is scheduled for May 17.
"I think we definitely have a lot of guys who can score," Crosby said. "The most important thing in these tournaments is the process of getting better every day and making sure you get better as a group and play a lot of good games. You just have to make sure every game is so important. You have to be at your best for a couple of weeks here."