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BIG BROTHER: RECCHI MENTORING CROSBY

Saturday, 11.12.2005 / 12:00 AM / Pittsburgh Penguins
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BIG BROTHER: RECCHI MENTORING CROSBY

Most 18-year-olds don’t have a 37-year-old big brother.

It seems Sidney Crosby has found one in Mark Recchi.

Crosby gained a “big brother” when he came to Pittsburgh this year and Recchi, one of the Penguins’ many veterans, took the young phenom under his wing.

“Absolutely, even though I am pretty close to his father’s age,” Recchi said with a laugh. “We talk a lot off the ice and in the dressing room. He’s my roommate on the road. We’re able to talk about hockey and about a lot of things.”

Indeed. While many of the Penguins help Crosby adapt to life in the NHL, Recchi and Crosby have formed a special bond on and off the ice. They’ve been linemates, off and on, since the beginning of training camp. And, while lines have been shuffled at times, the two have stayed together from a productivity standpoint.

The pair is among the team’s leading – Crosby leads the way with 20 points (6+14), while Recchi had notched only one less with 19 (7+12).

“When you’re making plays out there, forcing things, creating things, that’s the most-fun part,” Crosby said. “It’s not always fun when you can’t get anything going out there. You want to go out there, have the puck and make plays. We’ve been able to do that so far.”

Recchi believes the two have formed a “sixth sense” or a trust in knowing exactly where each other is on the ice without really looking.

“When both guys click together, you’re usually going to have good results,” Recchi said. “It makes a big difference. When you’re able to give and go and you feel where the other guy is going to go and know where he’s going to go, you’re going to find the holes and get it back.”

Crosby and Recchi use their speed to wreak havoc and are nearly impossible for defensemen to neutralize. Their legs are constantly churning and they use that to gain positional advantages.

“I think we’re similar players. We both like to go into the corners and we both like to pursue the puck,” Crosby said. “A lot of the times, we’re in similar areas near the puck. He has a great shot and he knows where to go in certain areas. For me, when I get the puck, I am looking for that. Usually, I can see the ice. It’s just a matter of me trying to find him and he sees the ice very well. I know that if I find a hole, he’s going to be there. It’s just one of those things – we read pretty well off each other.”

Recently, Recchi and Crosby were paired with Mario Lemieux, who also serves as Crosby’s landlord, on the team’s first line. It formed a devastating trio with 58 points. Lemieux has 19 points (7+12).

“It’s our job as a line to create things offensively and contribute to the team in that way, but we also have to be responsible defensively, too,” Crosby said. “You try to go out there and create things, but at the same time play responsibly. To be able to contribute, it’s always nice.”

Crosby leads all rookies in scoring in his quest to become the team’s first Calder Trophy winner as Rookie of the Year since Lemieux in 1985.

“I have done well. But, the most important thing is winning,” Crosby said. “So, it’s nice to contribute, but you want to win hockey games.”

Recchi is happy with how Crosby had adjusted to the NHL.

“He has produced points his whole life and we hope it continues. He’s going to progress,” he said. “I think he knows he can play in this league now. Obviously, I think he’s going to get better, but he’s also going to have some growing pains throughout the course of the year where he might go through a dry spell here or there. Everything is not going to be a bed of roses all the time. The one thing we all have to know to fall back on is if we play well defensively, the wins will start coming and then we’ll get the accolades that way. It takes the growing pains away offensively a little bit.

“He’s young and there are certain things he has to get better at and certain things that I can work on,” he continued. “But it’s fun. He’s like a sponge – he wants to learn and he wants to do the right thing so it’s easy skating with him.”

It’s not the first time Recchi has taken a young guy under his wings. Recchi mentored Saku Koivu while playing in Montreal and Simon Gagne during his stay in Philadelphia.

“I have been fortunate to play with young guys and help them out. I got a chance to room with Gagne and Koivu, too,” Recchi said. “The best thing about it is they are all great kids and that makes it easy on you. They all wanted to learn.”

Crosby is elated to have an influence like Recchi.

“He’s been great with his experience and being able to pass that to me. It’s just nice,” he said. “Sometimes you have questions and sometimes you don’t. But, you know there is someone there to answer them and someone you can really trust because you know that he’s been through it. That helps a lot.”

Off the ice, Recchi has also been a good resource.

“He’s been to all the places in the league. So, there’s a lot of stuff that’s new to me that’s not new to him,” Crosby said. “He’s able to kind of take care of me there and make sure everything is good.”

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