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Penguins' Crosby skeptical of maintaining torrid pace

| Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, 10:03 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby takes the puck form the Oilers' Jordan Eberie in the second period Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 at Consol Energy Center.

Sidney Crosby shakes his head and says no.

The rest of the hockey world is just shaking its head.

Through about 10 percent of the season, Crosby is averaging more than two points per game, something that hasn't been done for an entire season since Mario Lemieux did it in 1995-96.

Can it be done in a lower-scoring, more defensively sophisticated NHL?

“I don't think so,” Crosby said.

Crosby said he believes goaltenders are too good and defenses are too schooled for anyone to produced two points per game.

“I think it's a pretty different league now,” he said. “You don't see it very often. I don't see it happening. There are no surprises with everyone being able to prepare the way they can. It would be a very difficult thing to do.”

But would it be impossible? One of Crosby's linemates isn't so sure.

Left wing Chris Kunitz has played more games on Crosby's line than anyone. They have skated together for parts of six seasons, and Kunitz believes his center has reached a different, perhaps historical, level.

“I don't really know that there's anything that Sid isn't capable of right now,” Kunitz said.

Crosby's recent numbers suggest a flirtation with two points per game for a season is possible.

Three seasons ago, before Crosby's season ended prematurely because of a bout with concussion symptoms, he was averaging 1.6 points per game, the best mark of his career at that time.

Although he saw limited action in the 2011-12 season, he produced 1.68 points per game.

Last season, before missing the final 12 regular-season games and one playoff game with a broken jaw, Crosby overcame a pedestrian start to finish with a league-leading 1.5 points per game.

“He's really on top of his game,” Kunitz said. “The way he's skating, protecting the puck, seeing the ice — he's doing it all.”

The game certainly has changed since Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky — the only players to reach two points per game in the past 93 years — accomplished the feat routinely.

Gretzky peaked at 2.77 points per game in 1985, when more than eight goals were scored in the average game.

During most of Crosby's era, including this season, about 5.5 goals are scored per game. Still, he ranks fourth — behind Gretzky, Lemieux and Mike Bossy — on the all-time points-per-game list with a 1.43 mark.

Regardless of whether he comes close to the accomplishment, Crosby is receiving accolades from his coach.

“It's a question I don't ever entertain,” Dan Bylsma said when asked whether Crosby could reach two points per game for the season. “Some of the impressiveness is that I don't think (the points) are done out of flash or looking for more points. It's playing good, hard, honest hockey.”

Crosby had a point taken away in Philadelphia on Thursday and missed an opportunity for an empty-netter Tuesday against Edmonton, proof that he hasn't maximized his number of possible points.

There is also the reality that October is historically Crosby's second-worst scoring month.

“He's so good right now,” Kunitz said. “We'll see.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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