Sidney Crosby hopes his next trip to Vancouver will be a little more memorable.
The Pittsburgh Penguins captain was minus-3 during a 6-2 loss to the Canucks at GM Place on Saturday night and failed to record a shot on goal for the first time all season.
He’ll be pulling on a Maple Leaf sweater when he returns to the city again next month for the Vancouver Games. Despite the rough end to Pittsburgh’s five-game road trip, Crosby has been producing of late – putting up four goals and six points during those games.
The upcoming Olympic tournament was a hot topic as Crosby made stops in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. But No. 87 claims it hasn’t been difficult to keep his focus on the Penguins.
“If anything, you want your game to be your best when the time comes,” Crosby said last week. “The more you worry about doing things right in Pittsburgh, the more that will carry over when the (Olympics start).”
One thing the road swing underlined was just how much scrutiny he’ll be under at the event. Crosby was subjected to heavy media demands in Western Canada and even had some fans follow his cab to a restaurant when he went out to dinner in Vancouver.
During the Games, the focus will largely be centred around what he does on the ice. That’s hasn’t been an issue this season as Crosby has already hit the 30-goal plateau for the fourth time in his career.
The only NHL player who has scored more goals than him so far is Team Canada teammate Patrick Marleau, who added three more last week to bring his season total to 32.
In fact, the San Jose Sharks trio of Marleau, Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton led all Canadian Olympians with five points last week. Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Carolina’s Eric Staal had four points apiece while Nashville defenceman Shea Weber had three, including a pair of goals.
Martin Brodeur’s week included a 51-save victory the New York Rangers – his league-leading sixth shutout of the season. However, the Devils goaltender lost his other two starts.
Some of the veteran players on the Canadian Olympic team’s 23-man roster have been struggling the most of late.
Captain Scott Niedermayer was minus-6 in three games with Anaheim last week, dropping his rating for the season to minus-17 – unusual territory for a guy who is still a combined plus-159 for his career.
Just as strange is the eight game goal-scoring drought Jarome Iginla took into San Jose on Monday evening. It’s the second such stretch this season for the Calgary Flames captain and former Rocket Richard Trophy winner.
A handful of players from other countries have recently suffered injuries that left their Olympic participation uncertain. Finnish forwards Teemu Selanne (broken jaw) and Saku Koivu (sprained knee) are both on the mend while Czech forward Patrik Elias was knocked out cold during a game over the weekend. He’s expected to be examined by Devils team doctors early this week.
Steve Yzerman’s squad has been fairly fortunate so far.
Forward Patrice Bergeron returned to the Boston Bruins lineup Monday afternoon after sitting out two weeks with a broken thumb, giving him plenty of time to get comfortable before the Games. And the other two injured Team Canada players are both expected back this week – forward Brendan Morrow (upper body) and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (fractured left ring finger).
Every country has until Feb. 15 – the day before the Olympic tournament opens – to make injury replacements.
Fleury fully expects to accompany Penguins teammate Crosby back to Vancouver next month.
Pittsburgh has 12 more games to play before those two men each get their first taste of the Olympic tournament. Maybe next time they’ll get to leave with some better feelings.