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This Feat Would Be a Great One for Sidney Crosby



Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby

NEWARK, N.J. — Sidney Crosby does not talk much about personal achievements and honors. Hasn’t since he broke into the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005, and likely won’t long after he’s left the league.

It simply is not his way.

But all that he has accomplished — the three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals and a few dozen individual trophies and awards — has not gone unnoticed, especially by his teammates.

So they are aware that he is on the cusp of doing something that only one player in NHL history — and a pretty fair one, at that — has managed.

Crosby enters their game against New Jersey tonight at 7:08 with 33 goals and 35 assists in 67 games, which means he is putting up better than a point per game.

If he can maintain that pace for the balance of the regular season, he will join Wayne Gretzky as the only guys in NHL history to average a point-per-game or better in 19 seasons.

“I’m aware of it,” Crosby said after the Pittsburgh Penguins’ game-day skate at Prudential Center Tuesday. “Hopefully, I play well enough to earn it. We’ll see what happens.”

Crosby, of course, is not one to dwell on his accomplishments, which is fortunate for the Penguins since there have been enough of those to provide full-time employment for a staff of six.

But his coworkers recognize all that he has done, and all he is doing. And all he likely will do for at least a few more winters.

“It’s extremely impressive,” right winger Bryan Rust said. “To have that type of consistent impact over that many years in this league is extremely rare and extremely special, obviously. He’s in the company of only one other person, who’s considered to be the best player of all time, so it’s pretty cool that that’s even a possibility.”

Actually, Crosby might win a tiebreaker with Gretzky in this particular competition, since Gretzky got his 19 point-per-game seasons over 20 years, while Crosby will be 19-for-19 if he does it in 2023-24.

“To be competitive and on top of your game for so long … a lot of guys have skill and can keep it up for a few years, but to do it for so long, you have to have a certain inner drive that fuels you,” Penguins center Lars Eller said. “His hunger for always wanting to be the best is probably what stands out the most.”

Eller, who played for Montreal, Washington and Colorado before signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a free agent last summer, has seen Crosby as both a rival and a teammate. Suffice to say, he prefers the latter.

While Crosby has numerous qualities — vision, reflexes and a ferocious desire to compete, among them — that have contributed to his success, Eller said there is one trait that truly separates him from other players.

“He thinks quicker than anyone,” he said. “He sees plays develop before anyone. He’s very good at that little give-and-go play and jumping into open space below the circles and seeing what space to jump into.”

Crosby’s hockey sense and anticipation make it particularly challenging for opponents trying to defend him, because it’s hard to predict how he will react to a situation as it develops on the ice.

“At certain times, you couldn’t be too close to him, because he would jump past you,” Eller said. “And then there are other times when you have to be right next to him and not give him any time and space. He’s a very unique player.”

One whose commitment to his craft has few, if any, equals.

“His work ethic is unmatched,” Rust said. “He plays the game hard, works hard off the ice, works hard away from the rink,” Rust said. “In the summertime. In the gym. Whatever. Watching film, if things aren’t going right. Always trying to get better. Never being satisfied with where he is at has allowed him to be one of the best players in the league, if not the best.”

To be good enough, for long enough, that he’s ready to claim a place alongside a guy who came to be known as The Great One.