Penguins Notebook: For some, playoff beards don't grow

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The Penguins hope they'll still be playing in early June because that means they'll have a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

That's the main reason, anyway.

For some guys, there's a second incentive: By then, they might have grown something actually resembling a playoff beard instead of the random whiskers now sprouting on their faces.

For every guy like Ryan Whitney, Ryan Malone or Max Talbot -- who modestly claims to grow the world's finest playoff beard -- in the Penguins' locker room, there is a Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby or Kris Letang.

Members of the first group probably could morph from clean-shaven to a full-fledged lumberjack look if they'd devote a long weekend to it; those in the latter look as if they could be cleaned up with nothing more than a soapy washcloth and some vigorous rubbing.

That doesn't mean they aren't trying, though. In fact, several of Crosby's teammates accused him of attempting to get an unfair advantage.

"Sid got a pretty good head start on everyone," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "I think he's been going for about a month. He's still got the patches of dirt all over his face still coming in."

Crosby, it should be noted, insists he didn't start his playoff beard until after the Penguins' regular-season home finale April 2. Regardless of the precise date, his beard remains a work-in-progress.

Which is probably more than could be said for that of Fleury, whose facial hair -- aside from a small patch beneath his lower lip -- is barely visible to the naked eye, and only when viewed with the proper backlighting.

"I have been [growing one], since day one," he said, laughing. "Pretty good, eh?"

Uh, no. But that might change, if Fleury keeps working at it until the end of the Penguins' playoff run. Or the end of the decade, maybe.

Ruutu doesn't mind his rep

Penguins left winger Jarkko Ruutu, who scored the series-winning goal in their first-round victory against Ottawa, tied for third in a poll to determine the dirtiest player in the NHL.

It was conducted by Sports Illustrated and included feedback from 366 NHL players.

Ruutu received about 10 percent of the votes, putting him New York Rangers winger Sean Avery (24 percent) and Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger (11 percent), even with Minnesota winger Chris Simon (10 percent) and ahead of Nashville winger Jordin Tootoo (9 percent).

"How come I'm not first?" Ruutu said, smiling. "I should be."

Ruutu makes no apologies for his whatever-it-takes mentality -- "I don't draw a line on what I can do and can't do," he said. "I'll do whatever it takes to win" -- and said he accepts that there are plusses and minuses to his reputation.

"It hurts me, in that refs [likely call more penalties on him]," he said. "But, at the same time, maybe it makes [opponents] keep their heads up a little more when I'm out there. It goes both ways.

"I've always had that since I played here, and I know that's nothing going to change."

Hossa keeps shooting

Right winger Marian Hossa finished the Senators series with just one goal, but it wasn't for a lack of trying.

He put a team-high 24 shots on Ottawa goalie Martin Gerber, including nine in the Penguins' 3-1 victory in Game 4 Wednesday.

"I just tried to get open," Hossa said. "Whenever I have a chance, I'm trying to shoot now. Obviously, they didn't go in [during Game 4], but we won the game, and that's the most important thing."

Clackson signs

Add another Western Pennsylvania product to the list of those with a chance to play in the NHL someday.

Western Michigan right winger Matt Clackson -- son of Kim Clackson, the rugged former Penguins defenseman -- has signed with Philadelphia, which selected him in the seventh round of the 2005 draft.

Clackson played two regular-season games with the Flyers' AHL affiliate, picking up 19 penalty minutes. He is a 2003 graduate of Peters Township High School and has a younger brother, Chris, who plays at Western Michigan.

Dave Molinari can be reached at .


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