Programming note: Sharks-Penguins coverage gets underway at 7 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE – Sidney Crosby and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were familiar before they were teammates in Sochi last month, having played against each other in juniors and in the NHL.
Together, they won a gold medal for Team Canada, each playing a key role in their country’s impressive performance.
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On Thursday night at SAP Center they’ll likely see each other quite often, as Todd McLellan will probably want to get Vlasic and partner Jason Demers out against Crosby’s line as much as he can. Having the last change at home, he’ll have that luxury.
Crosby spoke about playing with and against the Sharks’ top defenseman after the Penguins’ morning skate.
“He’s just solid, nothing that I didn’t expect having played against him in the past,” Crosby said. “He was exactly what I think I was used to seeing, a guy who can skate himself out of trouble pretty easily. Makes a good first pass. Has a good shot through from the point. He’s just really steady, doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.
“I think that playing against a guy like that you have to kind of keep doing the same things, and hope that eventually the puck will end up coming back to you at some point. But, he’s really good at skating himself out of trouble.”
Vlasic had nothing but good things to say about Crosby, too, after not knowing him personally before the Olympics.
“I got to know him. He’s a great guy, really down to Earth,” Vlasic said. “I know what he’s like on the ice, that’s for sure. Off the ice he’s the same way, really a nice guy.”
“I know what he does. Obviously, he’s got great linemates, so it will be a tough challenge for me and J.D. tonight, but we look forward to it.”
McLellan doesn’t have any magic formula to go up against the league’s scoring leader. When asked how a team defends Crosby, he quipped: “I don’t know. You’ll have to phone the 29 teams that have had trouble.
“Sid’s a tremendous player, but he’s not an individual. He has the ability to use his linemates so well. It’s not a single player that becomes the ultimate danger there, it’s the group of players. And I think that’s a credit to him. He can make other people better. We’d obviously like to focus on him, but they also have a guy named [Evgeni] Malkin and [Chris] Kunitz, and a whole bunch of other guys that are capable of playing.”
Crosby has not played in San Jose since Nov. 7, 2009, as he was injured the last time Pittsburgh was in town. He has not scored a goal in five career games against the Sharks, although he does have four assists.