The Penguins dismissed calls from a newspaper writer from Ottawa to intentionally injure their first-round playoff opponents, star center Sidney Crosby in particular.
Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun wrote yesterday that forwards Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marian Hossa and Petr Sykora and defenseman Sergei Gonchar "have to be targeted."
Of Crosby, who missed 28 games the second half of the season because of a high ankle sprain, Brennan wrote, "Crosby's got a bad RIGHT ankle? How will it stand up to a two-hander? The Senators have to find out." He urged an Ottawa player to "emerge as a modern-day Bobby Clarke" and recalled the 1972 Summit Series, when Clarke slashed the ankle of Valeri Kharlamov, sidelining the Russian star.
"They can write whatever they want, but, if somebody was to do that to the best player in the world, they'll be suspended the rest of the playoffs," Penguins winger and enforcer Georges Laraque said. "That writer is just stupid. I've never heard anything so stupid."
Crosby, asked about the article, said without missing a beat, "It's my left."
He didn't seem worried.
"It wouldn't be the first time something like that happened," Crosby said. "Teams obviously read injury reports. If a guy's got a bad shoulder, I'm sure you're not going to ease up and not hit him. That's typical. Whether or not they deliberately do it, who knows? But that's why refs are out there, to police the game and make sure that stuff doesn't happen."
From the time he was named Penguins captain last summer, making him the youngest to receive a "C" on his NHL jersey, Crosby has described himself as a leader by action more than by words.
That won't change much going into his first postseason as captain.
"With the playoffs coming up, I have to elevate my game and elevate leading by example," Crosby said.
He said his teammates helped his transition from alternate captain to captain over the course of the season.
"At the start, it was a feeling-out thing," he said. "You want to find what you're comfortable with.
"But we have so many guys who lead by example, who care. It's not like you have to be on guys all the time because everybody cares. I think that makes it easier for any guy who wants to lead by example or who wants to help. It makes it easier for everyone because they all know we're in it together."
Crosby hasn't seen much change in the way his teammates relate to him.
"As captain, you're looked to for little things maybe off the ice, as far as opinions and stuff like that," he said, "but I'm pretty much treated the same way."
Penguins winger Gary Roberts reported no problems since returning to the lineup for the regular-season finale Sunday after missing more than three months with a broken leg and high ankle sprain. ... Several Penguins attended the Pirates' home opener Monday on their day off. "I love the ballpark," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "I've seen a lot of new ones, and that's got to be the best."
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com .