UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- No trinkets have been left in Chris Kunitz's locker. No dinners have been paid for as a means of buying his loyalty.
If Penguins centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are in a tug-of-war over the left winger, they are not openly plying him with gifts to get him to push to play with one over the other.
"No, absolutely not," Kunitz said Saturday, hours before he and the Penguins played the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series.
"I'm getting gifts [just] playing with either one of those guys."
Kunitz has spent a lot of his Penguins career playing alongside Crosby, including most of this season as Crosby ran up 56 points en route to being a finalist for the Hart Trophy as the National Hockey League's most valuable player.
Last season, when Crosby missed a lot of games because of injury, Kunitz played on a line with Malkin, who won the NHL scoring title and Hart Trophy, and right winger James Neal.
"It's a good problem to have when you get to play with either one of those guys," Kunitz said of coach Dan Bylsma's decisions on line combinations.
"Throughout my years in Pittsburgh, I've had a chance to play with both. They're both such elite talents that they make players around them way better. If you work hard, they're going to reward you with good plays."
Crosby has not openly lobbied for any particular wingers but has repeatedly pointed out how comfortable he is with Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. Malkin has developed strong chemistry with Neal and has said he likes having Kunitz on his left side.
For Game 5 of the series, Bylsma moved Kunitz onto Malkin's line with Neal, and switched Dupuis to the left side of Crosby's line so that Jarome Iginla could move to his natural position, right wing, with Crosby. Iginla had been playing left wing with Malkin.
Bylsma used the new look again in Game 6.
Keeping tabs on other teams
The Penguins, understandably, have been preoccupied with their first-round playoff series against the New York Islanders lately.
Nonetheless, many, if not most, have tried to keep up with the goings-on in the other best-of-sevens.
"We pay attention," winger Brenden Morrow said. "On our off-days, it's killing time [by] watching games and playing cards, so we see what's going on."
And they have rooting interests, although not because they're pulling for a particular team to advance or be eliminated.
"You hope for every series to go seven, except for the ones we're in," Morrow said. "You like to see physical hockey, teams wearing each other down."
Some players, like a lot of other people, did not anticipate that San Jose would sweep Vancouver, but most recognize how unpredictable things can get during the postseason.
"For the most part, in the playoffs, anything can happen, so nothing surprises you too much," defenseman Paul Martin said.
Defenseman Douglas Murray, acquired from the San Jose Sharks before the trade deadline, acknowledged he is keeping an eye on his former team, but said he has focused mostly on the series in the Penguins' Eastern Conference.
"I'm always watching the Sharks," he said. "All my buddies are on that team, so I want them to win. They're off to a great start."
But, with an eye toward the possibility of advancing in the East, "I probably try to pay more attention to the East games," Murray said. "I'm new to the East, so I'm trying to see the other teams as much as possible."
Tavares thrilled by new honor
Islanders center John Tavares is the biggest reason New York got into the playoffs for the first time since 2007, a feat that helped to make him a finalist for the Hart Trophy.
Crosby and Washington winger Alex Ovechkin, the other finalists, are previous Hart winners, while Tavares is a first-time finalist.
"It's a pretty special and tremendous honor," he said. "Some of the best players who have ever played have been nominated or have won the award. To be up for it is really special.
"It's still hard to believe. Just trying to focus on the [playoffs] now, but it's obviously great to be recognized, especially with those two other guys. Such great players and stars in our league."
Islanders stay loose
The Islanders knew they were facing elimination in Game 6, but didn't seem particularly tight at their game-day skate.
One example: The nameplate above center Casey Cizikas' locker-room stall was covered by a piece of masking tape on which the name "Randy" had been written.
Asked about it, Cizikas would say only, "Inside joke with the guys," although an Islanders staffer suggested it likely was "moustache-related."
Penguins prospect Scott Harrington, a second-round draft pick in 2011, was named a first-team Ontario Hockey League All-Star for the second year in a row. Harrington, a defenseman, had 19 points in 50 games and a plus-minus rating of plus-26 for the London Knights. ... The Islanders played without defenseman Andrew MacDonald for the second game in a row. He got hurt in Game 4 and had hand surgery.
For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 or Twitter @pgshelly. First Published May 12, 2013 12:00 AM