There's nothing new about opponents trying to label Penguins center Sidney Crosby a diver, or at least embellishing the effect of infractions committed against him.
It's been a staple in some quarters since former Philadelphia coach Ken Hitchcock trotted out that smear for the first time during Crosby's rookie season.
- Matchup: New York Rangers at Penguins, 2:08 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.
- Series: Penguins, 1-0.
- TV, radio: WPXI-TV, WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Henrik Lundqvist for Rangers.
- Penguins: Have won seven of nine all-time playoff games against Rangers at Mellon Arena. ... D Hal Gill has two points in 41 career postseason games. ... Have at least one power-play goal in all five playoff games this spring.
- Rangers: Lost consecutive games just once during past three playoff rounds. ... RW Jaromir Jagr has five-game points streak. ... C Chris Drury has 46 career playoff goals, ninth-most among active players.
- Hidden stat: Penguins have won Game 2 in seven consecutive series.
There also is nothing new about the spirited rebuttals that Crosby's teammates and bosses invariably put forth anytime those accusations are submitted for public consumption.
Penguins coach Michel Therrien, however, offered a particularly vigorous -- and totally unsolicited -- defense of Crosby while speaking with reporters after his team's practice yesterday at Mellon Arena.
Therrien said the New York Rangers' complaints about Crosby -- both in the days leading up to their second-round series and after he drew an interference minor on Martin Straka that led to the winning goal in Game 1 Friday -- are not only unfounded, but a transparent attempt to influence officials' judgment in future games.
An abridged version of Therrien's remarks:
"Where I'm kind of disappointed is that there is gamesmanship happening before the series, about Sidney drawing penalties. I'm kind of disappointed about that. This is a star player who [goes] into traffic, is a powerful skater, and when a star player like that goes into traffic and plays in traffic, he's going to draw penalties.
"We all know what [New York coach] Tom Renney has tried to do. He tried to do it before we started the series, and I saw his comments [after Game 1]. He tried to get the attention of the referees [by] complaining about the penalty at the end of the game.
"As far as I'm concerned -- and as far as we're all concerned -- [the call on Straka] was not even close. In the 1990s, I could understand if they let those [infractions] go. But with the new game, it's about speed, it's about making sure good players get the chance to make plays.
"We know what [Renney] is trying to do, but I'm convinced the referees don't buy into those things, and the league doesn't buy into those things. ... Sometimes, [Crosby] is going to draw penalties, sometimes there aren't going to be penalties. But he's going to keep going there."
Left winger Gary Roberts, who has missed the Penguins' past three games because of a groin injury, got through yesterday's workout with no apparent problem -- he actually was on the ice nearly a half-hour before the practice began -- but his status for Game 2 at 2:08 p.m. today at Mellon Arena remains unclear.
Therrien listed him as "day-to-day," and responded, "We'll see," when asked if he expects Roberts to dress today.
Roberts was out of sight when the locker room was opened to reporters after practice and thus offered no update on his status.
Penguins left winger Jarkko Ruutu, who was credited with 10 hits in the first round against Ottawa, matched that total in Game 1 against the Rangers.
"I think they missed a couple," Ruutu said yesterday, losing a battle -- not something he's had much experience with lately -- to suppress a laugh.
Although the teams combined for 85 hits -- 48 by the Penguins and 37 by the Rangers -- in the opener, the only other players on either team to record as many as six were Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik and Daniel Girardi and Ryan Callahan of New York.
The disparity, though, had nothing to do with Ruutu trying to pad his personal stats.
"You're not looking for hits," he said. "If they're there, you take them."