Hockey Notebook: Malone has 'goosebumps'

Crosby practices alongside Nash, Bergeron, shows no trouble with leg

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The only Pittsburgh-born, Pittsburgh-trained athlete in these Olympics sat on a folding chair at the U.S. Olympic men's hockey team news conference Monday, looked around and visibly was blown away.

"I'm at the Olympics," Ryan Malone said. "I'm about to represent my country in the Olympics, the greatest sporting event in the world. I get goosebumps just thinking about it."

Malone, born in Upper St. Clair, former "third-best player" on Upper St. Clair High School's hockey team, went on to play for the Penguins and now is with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"Growing up and playing where I did ... I know some people just say that it's an honor and all that. I'm really just not having this sink in right now. I can't even imagine how I'll feel when I get out there to play."

Crosby's leg fine

Sidney Crosby participated in Canada's first practice Monday with no apparent leg issues related to shot he blocked Sunday with the Penguins.

He said it looked worse than it was, especially when he took extra time on the bench to make sure it was not serious.

"It stung for a while," Crosby said. "I wasn't happy, but it was just one of those things where I was waiting to see if it gradually got better, and it did. But I'm not stupid. It's the second period, and I'm one period away from going to the Olympics. I wanted to make sure it was OK."

Crosby skated on a line with Rick Nash and Patrice Bergeron, giving him one of the game's top power forwards and a shifty complement in Bergeron.

"It was fun out there, a lot of good energy," Crosby said. "You could tell that guys are ready to get after it, the whole team."

Crosby said he had not had much time to experience the Olympic atmosphere.

"It's just fun being surrounded by so many great athletes. We're learning about new sports, sports we don't know. We're all glued to the television, cheering."

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury split practice time with Roberto Luongo, Canada's other backup, and with Martin Brodeur. Luongo will start today against Norway.

Combinations, pairings

For Russia, Evgeni Malkin skated between Ilya Kovalchuk and Maxim Afinogenov, giving Malkin a world-class finisher and one of the game's fastest wingers in Afinogenov. Defenseman Sergei Gonchar was paired with Fedor Tyutin.

For the U.S., Malone was on a line with Joe Pavelski and Phil Kessel -- "I'm just going to dump it in and watch those guys go," Malone said -- and Orpik was paired with Ryan Suter.

Malkin will not be timid

Malkin laughed when asked by a Russian reporter if he would hit Crosby.

"Yes," he replied. "And not just once."

Malkin had a brief talk with Crosby in the morning.

"We've been playing together for five years, we won the Stanley Cup together, and we're friends," Malkin said. "I told him good luck. I would never wish him anything bad."

Perhaps the greater issue is whether Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin, longtime intense rivals, will get along. Malkin did not comment on that, and Ovechkin did not do interviews, but they appeared friendly during the Russians' afternoon practice.

Malkin will wear No. 11 for Russia, a number "from my childhood."

Return of the mullet

Jaromir Jagr's hair will have a very familiar look to Pittsburghers.

On his 38th birthday, Jagr explained to reporters after the Czech Republic's practice his decision to let his hair grow so long again.

"I said to myself, 'How can I be closest to the Jagr of 15 years ago?' I'm not going to score the goals I did. I'm not going to play the same I did."

He pointed to the hair.

"This was the only way."

Dejan Kovacevic: . Find more at our Kovacevic at the Olympics blog. First Published February 16, 2010 5:00 AM


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