CALGARY -- Sidney Crosby hopes to rise again.
This isn't to suggest that he has fallen to any deep depths -- say, like the Colorado Avalanche did last season -- but hockey fans simply haven't seen Sid the Kid on top of the world for a while. Almost four years, in fact.
Back then Crosby was on quite a roll. Even though he suffered a knee injury in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup final, the Pittsburgh Penguins triumphed, giving Crosby his first (and still only) NHL championship. Eight-and-a-half months later, he converted a pass from Jarome Iginla to send Canadians into the streets to revel in an Olympic gold medal.
But since the golden goal in Vancouver, Crosby has endured some challenging times. There were the concussion-related problems that snatched 107 regular-season and playoff games from his career. There were the earlier-than-expected playoff exits in 2010, 2011 (he watched that post-season from the press box) and 2012.
Then, there was last spring. The Penguins loaded up with talent before the trade deadline. They snuck past the New York Islanders in the first round. They dominated the Ottawa Senators in the next. But then they were swept in the Eastern final
by the Boston Bruins.
That loss stung. It took Crosby weeks to get over the setback. He didn't score in the series. He didn't set up a goal. He felt he could have done more to help the Penguins prevail.
"Pretty much until I started to work out again," Crosby said at the Canadian Olympic team's orientation camp
in Calgary this week, when asked how long the defeat lingered. "It was a few weeks. That one was probably one of the longer ones to get over. The last time I felt like that was the year we lost to Detroit in the  final. That sting stuck with me because we were so close.
"But having the team we had and getting swept, that hurt. It wasn't a 4-0 series by means of how close the games were and the way they went, but they still beat us 4-0 and that's not something you're real happy with or accept. It definitely took a while to get over."Training days
The 26-year-old Crosby gets over these devastating disappointments by sweating more in the summer. He usually chooses an aspect of his game he wants to further develop and works on that skill.
Not this summer. The two areas Crosby wants to focus on when the NHL season begins are burying more of his offensive opportunities and playing better defence.
"Looking back to the playoffs, you realize as you go deeper and deeper, things get tighter and tighter," Crosby said. "The fact of executing and making sure you're taking advantage of your chances. If you look at the amount of chances you're going to get at that point in the playoffs, you're really looking at two to three quality chances maybe. That's a pretty good night. You have to make sure you take advantage of those.
"I look back at the chances I had in that series and I'm disappointed I wasn't able to convert. Sure, [Bruins goalie Tuukka] Rask played great, but as a forward you always want to find a way to beat the goalie and not surrender the fact that he beat you.
"That and defensively, too. Knowing that you're going to be part of all these close games, you want to be good defensively. I have kept that in mind all summer and that's something I want to focus on."
Crosby looks cut. You can tell that, after two months of hard work in the gym and on the ice, he's as fit as he's ever been.
He began his off-season regimen on Canada Day weekend with his fitness guru Andy O'Brien and fellow Cole Harbour, N.S., native Nathan MacKinnon, who is about to embark
on his rookie season with the Avalanche. Some holiday weekend. They ran the sand dunes of Brackley Beach on Prince Edward Island.
Then it was more training back home in the Halifax area. MacKinnon often rode shotgun with No. 87. Others, like Jason Spezza, Matt Duchene, John Tavares, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Daniel Cleary and Shawn Horcoff joined in at times, too.
There was more training time in California. There will be another intense session in Vail, Colo., before he reports for the Penguins' training camp in two weeks.
Don't look back
Crosby wants to be as prepared as he can for another long season with the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February and, hopefully, an even deeper trip into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
But how will he approach this season with an Olympics also to worry about?
"You approach the game in the same day-to-day manner the way you normally would," he said. "But [the Olympics] will be in the back of your mind. It will make you focus because you have to make sure your game is where it needs to be."
Surprisingly, Crosby said that he doesn't think much about his gold-winning goal in Vancouver. Sure, he's reminded about it often. But he's driven to create more memories in Russia.
He likens a return to the Olympics four years later to an individual athlete wanting to post a personal best when it matters most.
"It's something I'm reminded of quite often, running into Canadians," Crosby said. "They like to tell me where they were and how they celebrated. It's not something I need to remind myself of. That was a special moment that isn't going anywhere. It happened and I have great memories from it and I feel really lucky that I was part of it.
"Every kid grows up dreaming of being in that moment and having that opportunity. To be able to say I did that and to be part of that team that won in Canada, I know that was difficult, but I just can't think that I'm done.
"This biggest thing for me is to know that I have another opportunity. In 2010, we necessarily didn't know if we would be in this Olympics, it wasn't a for-sure thing. Knowing it's going to be in Russia and knowing how proud they are in terms of a hockey nation, knowing that it will be even tougher than Vancouver, knowing that everyone will want to beat us, it's another opportunity.
"I don't want to get caught looking into the past."
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