CRANBERRY, Pa. -- "I thought I had him. This time, I was sure."
Marcus Pettersson didn't haveSidney Crosby. No one ever really has him.
Not one-on-one. Not in open ice. Definitely not in this drill on this Monday morning at the Lemieux Sports Complex, the Penguins' first in advance of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"I reached with my stick around him, right where he had the puck," Pettersson kept telling me, though, honestly, I hadn't asked. "And you think you've got him. But then, the puck comes back between his feet, and you're sure you've got him."
"Until he's still got control of it. The puck's down in his feet, and he's still got control of it. Complete control."
And then ...
"He kicks away my stick. He pushes me backward. He turns his shoulders to the right, then takes off to the left."
"I didn't have a fun practice."
Pettersson's 22 years old, but he's as savvy as he is playfully self-deprecating. And no, again, I hadn't asked. He'd just stepped off the ice, plopped down at his stall and had yet to unlace the first skate when he opted to share that experience, the one captured above by our Matt Sunday after a long, long 45 minutes of being the main defenseman assigned to Crosby.
He was hardly alone, though. The captain didn't speak a syllable afterward about attaching any particular urgency to this practice. Because he didn't need to. He left it all out on the rink, sprinting at full speed, stopping and spinning with 7-foot snow sprays in his wake and, in his own inimitable way, sending out the strongest of signals as to what time of year it's about to be.
"It's ridiculous, what he just did out there," Dominik Simon was telling me, referring to Crosby's practice. "You can see how much he wants it. It's just in his blood, you know? It's not like something he needs to achieve. It's just who he is. It's how he was born."