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Flames still get fired up to play Crosby

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A reporter asked Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk a great question on Monday morning. Do players still get excited to play against Sidney Crosby? After all, hundreds of players currently in the NHL likely grew up as a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ franchise player.

“I do. I’m probably one of those hundred guys that would say that,” Matthew Tkachuk told the Postmedia reporter. “Out of all the current players right now, he’s done the most and had the most success when it comes to championships and all that stuff. Very excited when you get a chance to line up against him.”

For Tkachuk, it could be a heavy dose of Crosby if the Calgary Flames seek a top line versus top line matchup, pitting his trio against the future Hall of Famer.

But the hosts have options. Mikael Backlund, Blake Coleman and Andrew Mangiapane are equally adept at playing tough against Sid the (no longer a) Kid.

“Whenever Sidney Crosby comes to town, there’s a lot of electricity in the building. I’m sure the building will be very excited, and very juiced up,” said Tkachuk. “That’s a great hockey team over there. They really are.”

Crosby was out of the lineup in the Flames’ big 4-0 win in Pittsburgh earlier this season. So were Jeff Carter and Kris Letang. Those are some big pieces of the Pens puzzle that were missing so the Flames know they will likely face a tougher challenge. As it is, they needed Jacob Markstrom to make 45 saves in Steeltown.

“I know that we’ve had some tough games against them when they’ve come here, and when we’ve played there ever since I’ve been here,” said Tkachuk. “It’s been pretty evenly matched other than a few games.”

Calgary Flames old and young appreciate Crosby’s abilities

Veteran Flames winger Milan Lucic remembers when Crosby’s future was very much in doubt back in 2011 and 2012 because of a series of concussions.

“There was a time when you didn’t know whether or not he was going to play again,” said Lucic.

“As a competitor and as an athlete, it’s great to see him live up to all the expectations that were put on him. That’s not really easy to deal with and he’s definitely lived up to them.

“I have never had the chance to play with him but just him as a leader, and what I’ve heard, he’s a great motivator. He gets the best out of his teammates. He wants the best out of his teammates. For me, that’s something I have a lot of respect for, more than just his play.”

His play has to be respected, too. Although he still seems to be off his elite game after wrist surgery this offseason, Crosby has a pair of goals and six points in nine games this year. Last season, he scored 24 times and put up 68 points in 55 games.

He’s coming off a breakout three-point game against the Montreal Canadiens, so no one will take his abilities likely.

Dube remembers watching Crosby as a fan at the Saddledome

Despite his age, 23-year-old Flames forward Dillon Dube has played the Penguins four times in his NHL career. (He has two goals in Pittsburgh and three points in those contests overall). But facing the Pens captain never gets old.

“It’s cool. I think I was probably nine or 10 years old when I came to the Dome to watch him in pre-game skate,” said Dube.

“I think he’ll go down as one of the best to ever play. Any time you get a chance to go against him, be on the ice against him, it’s definitely a pretty cool moment for every kid growing up.

“It’s better when you beat him, too.”

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