Penguins Notebook: Rivalry with Capitals remains super-heated


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Has the rivalry between the Penguins and Capitals withered a bit because of the way Washington is playing?

The Capitals are 2-5-1, among the worst teams in the Eastern Conference two weeks into the lockout-shortened season. Star winger Alex Ovechkin has just two goals -- both on the power play -- and an assist and a plus-minus rating of minus-3.

The Penguins go into their game against Washington this afternoon at Verizon Center after two wins in a row and, perhaps, their best-played games.

"I don't care what their win-loss record is -- Ovechkin's going to be playing, going to be on their power play, be a dangerous guy," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said after his team clobbered New Jersey, 5-1, Saturday at Consol Energy Center.

"And that's a dangerous team to play and a tough place to play."

Sidney Crosby, who, along with fellow Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, has had a personal rivalry with Ovechkin, sided with Bylsma.

"No matter what the situation, it's always intense," Crosby said. "It kind of brings out the best in both teams. I don't think we ever expect, from either side, an easy game."

Bortuzzo all smiles

Sitting on the Penguins bench still tingling from scoring his first NHL goal, Robert Bortuzzo got a tap from fellow defenseman Brooks Orpik.

"That's Marty Brodeur, eh?" Orpik said of the Devils' future Hall of Fame goaltender.

"We both had a little chuckle," Bortuzzo said. "That's something no one will be able to take away from me for the rest of my life."

The rookie defenseman beat the star goalie for the Penguins' final goal of the game at 9:51 of the third period.

Crosby's feed from deep in the offensive zone hit something on its way to Bortuzzo at center point. Bortuzzo's shot hit a Devils stick. But the puck still slithered under Brodeur.

"There were five pretty big smiles on the ice for me," Bortuzzo said of his teammates. "No one's was bigger than mine."

The puck, retrieved by winger Pascal Dupuis, already was on a shelf in Bortuzzo's locker.

They have a plan for goalies

The Penguins' goaltending rotation for this weekend was set as part of a week-ahead schedule the coaches have devised -- Marc-Andre Fleury started Saturday in the home win against New Jersey, and Tomas Vokoun will start today at Washington.

In this lockout-shortened season, Bylsma and his staff are working on a shorter-term goaltending schedule than usual, but he is leaving some wiggle room. Just in case.

"It's not cut in stone," Bylsma said. "If it were to deviate, it wouldn't necessarily be for one specific reason or another."

So Fleury, a former first overall draft pick and No. 1 goalie, or Vokoun, brought in last summer to carry a heavier load than most backups, conceivably could pick up or lose a start if the coaches deem it is needed.

For this weekend, Bylsma said, "We're splitting these games. That was on the schedule.

"But there is going to be a time where Marc-Andre Fleury is going to play back-to-back games and get into a rhythm that way. You could see Tomas play back-to-back games and get into a rhythm."

Still, the condensed schedule of 48 games in 99 days means the Penguins will try to follow their predetermined rotation.

"Conditioning-wise and game-wise, especially in the first 20 games, sticking to that is going to be pretty close to the plan," Bylsma said.

Tempers flare briefly

Crosby and New Jersey's Patrik Elias exchanged a few heated words when Crosby was penalized in the first period for tripping Elias, who apparently thought Crosby embellished on the play.

"I didn't dispute the penalty; I didn't like the way he went down," Elias said. "I know I'm not that strong to throw him down. He made it look like I kicked his feet out."

Tip-ins

The Penguins named Warren Young as an amateur scout. His claim to fame is scoring 40 goals for the Penguins playing alongside Mario Lemieux in Lemieux's rookie season. ... The Devils used defenseman Peter Harrold as a winger on the fourth line. ... The Penguins scratched forwards Eric Tangradi and Dustin Jeffrey and defenseman Ben Lovejoy. ... Washington defenseman John Erskine has been suspended for three games for elbowing Philadelphia forward Wayne Simmonds Friday night and will not play today against the Penguins.

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