The Penguins' locker room was a bustling place Tuesday morning — players packing, bags getting tossed on carts, orders being barked. The team was bound for Vancouver, where its 44th NHL season will open Thursday, and everyone seemed to be in a rush.
And why not?
This is a shout-it-out-loud Stanley Cup contender, maybe the favorite out of the Eastern Conference.
It's easy to list all of the reasons for that, from Evgeni "This is a new me" Malkin to hope for a vastly improved power play to the sport's premier penalty-killers to a seven-deep defensive corps to a better-than-ever Marc-Andre Fleury backing it all up.
I'll settle just for this: The Kid is smiling again.
Sidney Crosby lingered on the ice 15 minutes beyond the hourlong practice yesterday at Consol Energy Center. He skated sprints, punctuated by violent stops and starts. He took several bonus shots on Fleury and Brent Johnson, playfully poking for rebounds. He flipped the puck on his blade like a flapjack -- as only he can -- near the center circle. He engaged in a game of long-shot.