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Sidney Crosby, Penguins welcome Blackhawks’ Connor Bedard to NHL

It’s the NHL season opener for both teams Tuesday, a time for the Pittsburgh Penguins and visiting Chicago Blackhawks to unveil their lineups and get a new start toward trying to return to the playoffs.

However, that all could be overshadowed by a specific matchup.

Pittsburgh captain, center and sure Hall of Fame inductee Sidney Crosby will be on the opposite side from Chicago highly touted rookie center Connor Bedard, the top pick in the 2023 draft.

Crosby, entering his 19th NHL season, has led the Penguins to three Stanley Cup titles, has 550 goals and 1,502 points in 1,190 games and has won two Hart (MVP), two Art Ross (scoring title) and two Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) trophies.

Now 36, he hasn’t changed his approach as he’s aged.

“I think (it’s) just trying to do your best physically to make sure you can play at the highest level and compete that way,” Crosby said.

Last season, he led the Penguins with 93 points and played in all 82 games.

“He represents everything that’s right in hockey and sports,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said during training camp.

This will be the 18th season together for Crosby and fellow core Penguins players Evgeni Malkin, the No. 2 center, and defenseman Kris Letang. Pittsburgh committed to trying to win another Cup — or more — with them when Letang and Malkin were re-signed after the 2021-22 season.

That flopped, though, when the Penguins barely missed the playoffs last season.

Pittsburgh doubled down, jettisoning much of its upper management and bringing in president of hockey operations and general manager Kyle Dubas.

He had an incredibly active first offseason, punctuated by trading for reigning and three-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson to provide a one-two punch with Letang on the blueline, as well as bringing in several new forwards, primarily to compete for what will be a revamped bottom two lines.

“I’m looking forward to figuring out what I need to do to be as successful as I can for this group to collectively have success,” Karlsson said.

Bedard, who was born weeks before the Penguins drafted Crosby first overall in 2005, represents the largest part of a full rebuild for the Blackhawks.

He led the junior Western Hockey League with 71 goals and 143 points in 57 games last season. Now he will play his first NHL game against Crosby, his childhood idol.

“You get excited and think about it, for sure,” Bedard said, “but I’m trying to focus on these last few days (of training camp) we have to try to get better.”

Bedard, 18, showed a few dazzling moves in four preseason games and it’s a given that he will make the opening-night roster.

Chicago second-year coach Luke Richardson gave a nod to Bedard’s natural gifts — “He sees (the game) differently than us, so we’re going to have to have trust in a guy with that kind of talent and vision,” he said — but cautioned that the young star still is a rookie.

“There are … parts of his game he’s still going to have some transition time, and we’re helping him,” Richardson said.

–Field Level Media

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