Sidney Crosby was a national legend growing up on the far eastern coast of Canada in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. But the western half of hockey's homeland also has an affinity for the NHL's biggest star.
Crosby makes his first trip to western Canada as the Pittsburgh Penguins look for their fifth win in six games on Wednesday when they face the Edmonton Oilers, who are looking for their fourth in a row.
It's the first of a four-game road trip for the Penguins (12-12-2), who will also visit Calgary and Vancouver before traveling back east, and because of the current NHL scheduling format, it's the first chance in Crosby's three-year career that fans of Canada's three Western Conference teams will see him play.
"It's always nice to go to new places," Crosby said. "It's a little busier (when the Penguins are in Canada). There's a lot more going on. A lot more interviews."
Crosby, the NHL's reigning scoring champ and MVP, is having three news conferences in Edmonton alone -- one after the Penguins arrived at their hotel late Tuesday afternoon, and two others on game day Wednesday.
His team's play on the ice has begun to pick up over the past few weeks. After a two-week stretch in mid-November when it lost six of seven games, Pittsburgh responded by winning four of five, outscoring its opponents 20-12 in the process.
Its latest win was a 3-1 home victory against Phoenix on Monday, and it showed that even if Crosby isn't dominant, the Penguins can still win. The 20-year-old only had one shot on goal, though he did assist on rookie Kris Letang's power-play goal -- the eventual game-winner -- midway through the third period.
"He's smart and he got in the right spot, it took him a couple to get it but it was a big one for us," Crosby said. "The power play was struggling a bit there, so to get a chance like that late in the game and come through was big."
The improved performance of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been a big reason for Pittsburgh's better play of late. He won one of his nine starts from Oct. 25-Nov. 22, going 1-5-1 with a 3.88 GAA in that span. But he's allowed just two goals in winning his last three starts, posting a 0.67 GAA.
Edmonton (13-14-1) has looked impressive in winning its last three games, beating Anaheim twice by a combined 9-1 score and edging Los Angeles 4-3 in a shootout on Monday.
The Oilers scored three times in the second period against the Kings to take a 3-2 lead, but Los Angeles tied the score with less than two minutes to play in regulation. After a scoreless overtime, Sam Gagner scored in the shootout and Mathieu Garon was perfect to pick up a win over his former team as Edmonton improved to a league-best 7-1 in shootouts.
"I was just trying to be focused on the puck," Garon said. "...They're so skilled that you never know what they're going to do. And for their part, they know me, too. So it's pretty even."
Edmonton has scored 72 goals, but has struggled on the power play. The Oilers have scored just 15 times in 125 chances with the man advantage -- a 12 percent conversion rate that's the worst mark in the league.
Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton's leading scorer, has four of the team's power-play goals and leads the team with 11 goals and 16 assists.
The Penguins last played in Edmonton on Dec. 6, 2003, a 4-3 Oilers win. Edmonton also won the teams' most recent meeting, 3-1, in Pittsburgh on Jan. 10, 2006.