MONTREAL -- What do you think is worse for Sidney Crosby, not scoring game after game or having to explain why he's not scoring day after day?
"Probably answering it," Crosby said Sunday at his team's hotel. The Penguins were preparing for Monday's Game 6 against the Canadiens and a chance to move on to their third straight Eastern Conference finals with a victory.
Not that Crosby is complaining.
He knows who he is. He knows when he doesn't score for six straight postseason games, it's news. Every day.
"You know what, it's the way it is. It comes with the territory. I understand that," Crosby said. "It's difficult when you feel like you're doing things well and you're still getting questioned about it. Then, I'm giving you the same answer. I don't feel like I'm doing terrible. I feel like I'm working hard out there and all those things that you try and do.
"You try to get to the net, they do a good job of boxing guys out. You've just got to continue to do it and stick with things. That's all I'm trying to do right now and then, like I said, I trust that if I do that, I'll find a way to produce."
Crosby led all playoff goal-scorers last spring as the Penguins won their first championship since Crosby's landlord, Mario Lemieux, was the team captain. He roared out of the blocks this spring, too, with five goals in his first five playoff games. But he's gone dry since.
"That's the playoffs," Crosby said. "There's not a lot of goals scored. Believe me, I'd love to score every game."
Teammate and friend Maxime Talbot said the good thing is the Penguins have continued to have a measure of success even though Crosby hasn't scored. He also said it's still light enough in the dressing room that they can joke around with Crosby about his parched goal-scoring stretch.
"Obviously, he would like to score," Talbot said. "Like everybody can see, he's doing some other really good stuff out there. It's not like if he's not scoring he's not useful to your team. He's our leader out there, he's creating a lot of things out there. We can definitely joke around with him."
"He takes it great. He's a great guy. He's a friend and that's what friends do," Talbot said. "If you take it too seriously, you know, sometimes it's definitely going to get to you."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma takes a more analytical approach to "The Drought." He said Crosby led the team in something called "net-front appearances when the puck was there," Bylsma said.
"He was in there six times when the puck was around," Bylsma said. "That's how you get goals. That's what goal-scorers do, and that's why he's had a lot of success in the past in the playoffs. If he wasn't getting there, we'd be having a conversation or maybe showing some video, but he's been there, he's been going to those areas. He's been there for screens and second chances, and that's what you need to keep doing to get those opportunities and he will."
OK, so who will be more relieved when the questions about "The Drought" end, Crosby or Bylsma?
"I think we'll both be pretty happy when he doesn't have to answer that question anymore," Bylsma said.
The injury reportThe Habs appear to be getting one of their walking wounded back in the form of defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who last played in Game 3 of the opening round against Washington and appears to have been cleared to play in Game 6.
''I'm very close to playing,'' said Spacek, who spoke to the media for the first time since leaving the lineup with what is believed to be an inner ear/vertigo problem. ''Let's see what happens.''
And he added to the mystery by calling it ''an unusual injury, it doesn't happen to too many players. It came from something I had before. I know a couple of players who retired from what I had. That scared me."
Two other injured players, Andrei Markov, out with an ACL injury since Game 1 of this series, and Paul Mara, who hasn't played since Jan. 22 after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, skated with a trainer briefly. There has been talk that if Markov can get a knee brace fitted before Monday night, he could play, but it seems like an outside shot at best.
On the road againThe Pittsburgh Penguins have closed out five straight playoff series away from home, but Crosby said he figures doing the same at the raucous Bell Centre won't be a cake walk.
"It's always a challenge, and I think when you look at this one, this will probably be the toughest one we've had with this crowd and with this team being in that situation already," Crosby said. "We realize it's going to be a big test, but at the same, it's somewhat familiar for us, which is a good thing and will help in preparing."
The last time they had an opportunity to close out a series (in the first round against Ottawa), the Penguins trailed 3-0 in the game before coming back to win in overtime on Pascal Dupuis' winner.
Crosby doesn't expect such a slow start Monday in Montreal.
"I think our desperation will be there much more than it was," Crosby said. "I don't think that's going to be the case here tomorrow. I think we realize the situation we're in. We should be a much more desperate team than we seemed last time."