Penguins center Evgeni Malkin and Washington winger Alex Ovechkin were on opposite sides last night at Mellon Arena, but the two Russian players are united on one front.
They both hope the NHL does not follow through on commissioner Gary Bettman's notion to bar league players from the Olympics starting in 2014 - when they happen to be in Sochi, Russia.
Bettman cited the February disruption in the league season every four years and the NHL's support of a regular World Cup that could begin in 2011.
"I want to play," said Malkin, who was in Turin in 2006, when Russia failed to medal after taking the bronze and silver in the previous two Games, respectively.
"It's one time in four years. I think everybody wants to play. It's big games. It's big players."
Ovechkin, who beat out Malkin for the NHL scoring title and MVP last season, also was in Turin in 2006. Two months ago, he made a trip to Beijing, China, during the Summer Olympics to help Russia promote the 2014 Games.
"Everybody wants to represent their country, especially in the Olympic Games," Ovechkin said. "I want to play over there. But it's still a long way until then, and I don't know what's going to happen."
Add Penguins winger Miroslav Satan, a two-time Olympian for Slovakia, to the list.
"I think it's good for the NHL and for hockey in general to be a part of the Olympics," Satan said. "It excited a lot of fans internationally. It made the Olympic tournament mean much more. It will be a shame if the NHL players aren't a part of it. Fans around Europe will be disappointed if that happens."
Playing in the Olympics offers an experience that varies from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"It's completely different," Satan said. "You play for your country first. It's not a playoff series. It's just one game. You win it or you lose it, and that determines your fate. It's a short tournament, only two weeks. There's no room for mistakes. And it's highly followed by all the countries involved."
If the NHL discontinues its relationship with the Olympics, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby could be looking at just one appearance. That would be in 2010 in his native Canada at the Vancouver Games.
As an 18-year-old NHL rookie, he was left off the Team Canada roster in 2006.
Perhaps surprisingly, Crosby is something of a fatalist on the topic.
"I'm sure they have their reasons. I'm sure it's not for nothing that they would make that decision," he said. "I'm sure a lot of guys would love to be a part of it, but, if the case is they can't be, then there's not much you can really do.
"If they don't let guys go, that's the way it used to be, right? It used to be amateurs. That means you might have less opportunity to play in the Olympics if you're an NHL player, so, hopefully, take advantage of it in the next one."
Cooke misses game
Penguins winger Matt Cooke did not participate in the morning skate and missed the game last night because of an unspecified torso injury.
"He's day to day," coach Michel Therrien said, indicating he did not consider the injury serious.
Paul Bissonnette replaced Cooke in the lineup. The other Penguins scratch was defenseman Darryl Sydor.
Capitals' Semin on a tear
Ovechkin is immersing his teammates in his culture by blaring Russian hip-hop music from his MP3 player in the locker room.
"The whole team loves it," he said.
One player who doesn't find the music foreign is winger Alexander Semin, who is Ovechkin's road roommate. Semin entered the game leading the Capitals with three goals, six points. He added a goal and an assist last night.
Ovechkin, a sniper himself, was asked if he has seen anyone with better hands than Semin.
"What he can do with pucks, nobody can do," he said.
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau watched tape of the heavy-hitting fight Tuesday between Eric Godard of the Penguins and Riley Cote of Philadelphia.
"It was pretty good," he said. "I'm just glad I wasn't on the receiving end of either one of those."
The Capitals were without their heavyweight, Donald Brashear, who has a hand injury.
Washington also scratched center Viktor Kozlov.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1721.