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Sidney Crosby gets his first chance to win the Stanley Cup

DETROIT - Sidney Crosby hopes he can make it to the next Stanley Cup party in Cole Harbour, N.S.

In fact, he'd like to be hosting it as soon as this summer. The anticipation was growing for the Pittsburgh Penguins captain on the eve of Game 7 in the NHL's championship series - the closest Crosby has ever been to touching the trophy. Even though the Cup came to Cole Harbour two years ago, he steered well clear.

"(Anaheim Ducks defenceman) Joey DiPenta actually had a Stanley Cup party in my hometown," Crosby said Thursday. "I didn't make it to the party and I didn't get a photograph with it.

"Everyone knows that you try to stay away from it until you get the opportunity to really do it yourself."

The opportunity has arrived for Crosby and the Penguins.

While they're considered underdogs heading into Friday's all-or-nothing game at Joe Louis Arena, they believe they can find a way to beat the Detroit Red Wings. No one will put more pressure on Crosby than Crosby, who has drawn Detroit's best defensive players and been somewhat neutralized in the final.

His mission for the finale is simple.

"I've got to try to go out there and play my best game in the playoffs," said Crosby. "No matter what's happened before, whether I had one goal or 10 (in the series), doesn't really matter at this point."

The NHL has put together a fantastic commercial during these playoffs that shows a series of still images of players lifting the Stanley Cup: Rocket Richard ... Denis Potvin ... Wayne Gretzky ... Steve Yzerman ... Mario Lemieux ... Mark Messier ... Patrick Roy.

While it's natural to see Crosby as the next in line, he claims not to have thought much about what it would be like to take the trophy from commissioner Gary Bettman.

"I think you try to push (those thoughts) aside," said Crosby. "For me personally, that's the way I look at it. You want to approach it as much as you can like a normal game. And it's probably a lot easier said than done.

"But it's so important to focus on what you have to do out there."

Part of the preparation isn't likely to include an emotional dressing room speech from the 21-year-old face of the franchise.

Crosby thinks the Penguins have been through enough this season that there isn't much to say. It's something his teammates have come to admire about their captain.

"I think the best thing about Sid's leadership recently is he's just doing it on the ice," said defenceman Rob Scuderi. "Some guys are good talkers in the locker-room. He does that at times. But I think the best thing that he's done is just played his game."

It will be a tall task on Friday night.

Crosby has just two assists in five Stanley Cup final games at Joe Louis Arena over the past two years. He's also failed to reach the scoresheet in four of the six games so far this series.

Needless to say, he's hoping for a Game 7 performance that erases any memories of that.

"The main thing is not to have any regrets," said Crosby. "You want to go in there and make sure you've done everything to prepare and leave it all out there. It is a pretty simple situation.

"There is no thinking about it - you've got to empty the tank."

The Penguins won't have to look far for motivation.

Not only did they get to this point last year and lose, but they've also been thinking about this moment since they were kids. Before the rest of the world had heard of Crosby, he was winning the Stanley Cup in his mind back in Nova Scotia.

Now he can do it for real.

"We're one win away from doing what we wanted to do and doing something a lot of us have dreamed of doing for a long time," said Crosby. "I'd say that's a pretty exciting feeling. We know they're in the same position, but I will take this opportunity any day."



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