Crosby in full flight as entry to 1,000 club looms

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Five years ago, Sidney Crosby spent a winter working out in solitude wondering when the pain in his neck would ease and the intermittent fog in his head would lift. The lingering effects of a concussion in the 2011 Winter Classic left the Pittsburgh Penguins captain’s once bright future uncertain at best.

For the first time in his life, the preternatural vision that helped make Crosby a star couldn’t see the next move.

Reaching a thousand points? Heck, Crosby would have settled for the chance to score just once more.

“A lot of things go through your head as far as playing again, getting to the level you think you can get to,” the two-time MVP said. “A lot of sitting time around kind of waiting. It’s hard for that to not kind of cross your mind.”

No longer. Not with Crosby healthy and at the height of his powers for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Crosby’s 30 goals lead the league and his 59 points are second only to Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, who is now where Crosby was a decade ago: at the forefront of the next wave of superstars.

The 29-year-old Crosby remembers those giddy early days. Yet he doesn’t hold them as close as the ones that left him wondering if he would ever get back on the ice with his teammates, let alone return to the form that made him the torchbearer for an entire organization as a teenager.

So whenever Crosby becomes the 86th member of the NHL’s 1,000-point club — he had 997 heading into a visit by Calgary on Tuesday night — he’ll make sure the puck ends up in his father Troy’s hands for safekeeping. And with it comes an appreciation that Crosby admits he didn’t always have for his own talent and the historic company he keeps.

“I don’t feel old but I feel like there are times maybe when you’re younger it’s kind of an extension of junior hockey where you’re used to getting certain milestones and it seems to come easy,” Crosby said. “I think you look at it differently as you get older. It’s just something you try to enjoy a little bit more.”