Penguins in prime position whenever lockout ends

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 3, 2013 at 4:14 pm •  Published: January 3, 2013
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Now healthy — and with a new contract that will keep him in Pittsburgh until his late-30s — Crosby is eager to etch his legacy in stone. Having familiar faces to work with in what could be something akin to the 1994-95 season that was limited to just 48 games could help him get off to a quick start.

Crosby has talked with Pittsburgh player development coach Bill Guerin about what it takes to navigate such a busy schedule. Guerin was part of the New Jersey Devils team that hoisted the Cup in 1995 after a three-month sprint.

The lesson Guerin imparted was simple: don't mess around.

"You don't have time to drop a bunch of games, it's pretty hard to catch up," Crosby said. "I think you have to be ready to find a way as best you can. Every team is kind of in the same situation trying to get ready quick but you really have to be as close to your best right away. Usually you have a whole season to find your identity. I think you have to find it a little bit quicker in a shorter season."

It's something the Penguins believe they can do provided they stay healthy. If anything, the lockout has provided the players who stuck close to Pittsburgh pretty good at running their own practices.

Forward Joe Vitale joked there's no need for coach Dan Bylsma to show up once things return to normal.

"If he can keep doing what he's doing, that'd be great," Vitale said with a laugh.

He's kidding. The well-liked Bylsma is one of the main reasons the Penguins have been among the most stable franchises in a league that sometimes struggles to find its footing. That shouldn't be a problem in Pittsburgh, which hopes a quick start will lead to an even better finish.

"Playing with the same guys for the most part, there's a comfort zone," Vitale said. "You can read off each other well, so there's not really as many growing pains."

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Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

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