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Crosby Expects 'Intense Competition' vs. MacKinnon

Monday, 10.21.2013 / 10:53 AM / Features
By Wes Crosby
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Crosby Expects \'Intense Competition\' vs. MacKinnon
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby isn\'t surprised by fellow No. 1 pick and Nova Scotia native Nathan MacKinnon\'s quick acclimation to the NHL and is ready for \"intense competition\" when their teams meet Monday.

A rookie center from Nova Scotia has put the National Hockey League on notice in the first month of his career.

Sound familiar?

Eight years ago, an 18-year-old Sidney Crosby scored 10 points (two goals, eight assists) through the first eight games of his rookie season. Similarly, the first pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, Nathan MacKinnon, has scored seven points (one goal, six assists) in his first eight games with the Colorado Avalanche.

The comparisons between the Nova Scotia natives are natural and will be put on display for the first time when the Avalanche travel to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS2).

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"I can't say I'm totally surprised," Crosby said. "I think that there's a lot of expectations for him. Skating with him in the summer, seeing him play, I felt like he was going to be able to make that transition pretty well and he's done that.

"I think there's always a learning curve, but he competes hard and he wants to learn."

MacKinnon is tied for second on the Avalanche in points with PA Parenteau, two behind Matt Duchene. Colorado is off to a much better start than the Penguins were in Crosby's rookie season.

Despite Crosby's fast start, Pittsburgh didn't win in the 2005-06 season until its 10th game, 7-5 against the Atlanta Thrashers on Oct. 27, 2005. MacKinnon and the Avalanche have avoided a similar start and have instead mirrored Pittsburgh's play through eight games this season.

Each team carries a 7-1-0 record into Monday.

"Being surrounded in Colorado with a lot of younger guys, a team that's got a lot of offensive talent, I think that's a great opportunity, a great place for him to be," Crosby said.

Crosby has won the Hart, Art Ross and Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophies, but is off to his best start this season. He leads the NHL with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) and has earned a point in each of the Penguins' eight games, the longest streak to begin a season of his career.

His previous such streak came in his rookie season. Crosby scored a point in each of his first six career games before he was held without one in a 6-3 loss against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 20, 2005.

Crosby scored 102 points (39 goals, 63 assists) that season, but finished second behind Alex Ovechkin (106 points and 52 goals in 2005-06) for the Calder Memorial Trophy.

MacKinnon might face a similar fate in his first year. San Jose Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl has scored 10 points and seven goals through his eight games, while San Jose is atop the Western Conference standings with 15 points, one more than Colorado.

"[This group of rookies] are all great players, highly skilled and to make that jump at their age says everything right there," Crosby said. "They're only going to get better with time."

Crosby has known MacKinnon for a few years and plans to meet with him either before or after Monday's game. The two skated with each other, along with other NHL players and some from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, in Halifax during the summer.

"I obviously heard about him prior to meeting him," Crosby said. "The last couple summers, I've gotten to train with him and skate with him and spend time with him in the offseason. So, it's been cool.

"To be from Cole Harbour and see someone come out of there and get drafted first overall, kind of go through the same things. I think anybody will tell you who comes from there, you're proud to be from Cole Harbour."

MacKinnon has said Crosby has been instrumental in opening doors for future talent from Nova Scotia.

"Growing up, there were always guys I looked up to that were from the area," Crosby said. "Al MacInnis, Glen Murray, Cam Russell was from around the area too. So, there were some guys around that I looked up to and you wanted to do what they did.

"To be one of those guys, and now he's one of those guys, that's something that means a lot."

But Crosby said his relationship with MacKinnon will not be a factor once the puck drops Monday. If anything, it could raise his play to another level.

"It's probably going to be a higher level of competition than you normally see in a game," Crosby said. "We're competitive and I know from training with him, even as a younger guy, he's really competitive. You don't get to where he's at without being competitive.

"I'm sure once we get out there it will be intense competition."

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