Penguins Notebook: Getting tickets tough call now

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WASHINGTON -- Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals, was a pioneer of the concept of blocking telephone ticket orders that originate in specific area codes -- 412, for example -- and his team has added another technical wrinkle to try to keep Penguins fans away from the Capitals' home games.

Joe Ignatius, an Elizabeth Township native and longtime Washington-area resident, is on a Capitals e-mail list, which led to him having an opportunity Thursday to buy a $225 package that included tickets for Game 1 or 2 of the Penguins-Capitals series.

The package also included an all-you-can-eat buffet, unlimited beer, wine and soda, a Capitals hat, a Capitals rally towel and, uh, season tickets to the Washington Mystics of the WNBA.

(And not just any all-you-can-eat buffet, by the way. This one, according to the e-mail, features "Hand Carved Turkey Sandwich w/Cranberry Mustard, Pasta Salad, Hot Dogs w/Fixings Bar, Artisan Cheeses, Fresh Fried Potato chips with a trio of dips, Focaccia Bread and Assorted Gourmet Dessert Bars.")

The ancillary items didn't deter Ignatius, but he said that when tried to purchase the package for Game 2, the sales representative with whom he was dealing told him the transaction couldn't be completed.

"When I gave my name to the girl who was taking my information, there was a pause, and then she said, 'Sorry, but after looking at your ticket-purchasing history, it is obvious you are a Penguins fan,' " Ignatius said.

" 'Mr. Leonsis has given us orders not to sell tickets to Penguins fans.' "

Ignatius' response?

"I told her to thank Mr. Leonsis for paying me and the multitude of Pens fans who have filled the Capital Centre and Verizon Center over the years this great compliment."

First meeting in eight years

Although the Penguins have won six of seven previous playoff meetings, this is the first time the teams have met in the postseason since 2001.

Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar was a Capitals player back then -- in fact, he was victimized by Martin Straka on the Penguins' overtime, series-winning goal in Game 6 -- but he's one of the few on either team who has played in a Penguins-Capitals series.

Consequently, there's no reason to believe history will be a significant factor in Round 2.

"I know the two teams have seen each other a lot over the last 15 or 20 years," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "Beside that, I don't know of specific series. I don't think that changes anything now."

Hatred among teams

They'll drop the puck at center ice shortly after 1 p.m. today to start the Penguins' second-round playoff series against Washington.

Or maybe they'll do it in the center ring, because this series -- with all of its story lines and subplots, both personal and professional -- promises to be an absolute circus.

The hype, which centers on the Crosby-Alex Ovechkin rivalry but touches any number of aspects of the series, began to build the moment the matchup was set.

And while it might be overdone at times, it's not entirely unfounded, given the emotion that has been evident almost any time the Penguins and Capitals have met in recent seasons.

"There's a lot of hatred that's grown over the last couple of years," Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton said.

But, while some sideshows are inevitable, the Penguins insists they won't get caught up in, or distracted by, them.

"It's kind of a dream for the league to have this matchup, but most of the circus happens the day before a game, or after a game," said Penguins left winger Matt Cooke, who played for Washington briefly in 2008.

"Those are easy things to control. Come game time, it doesn't have much effect."

That's partly because the coaching staff tries to insulate players from things that don't have a direct bearing on their performance -- "Inside the room, it's a lot calmer than outside," coach Dan Bylsma said -- and partly because many players make a conscious effort to avoid getting immersed in what's being said and written about the series.

"You learn to tune everything from the outside world out," Eaton said.

"You tend not to read the newspapers too much or watch too much of the NHL stuff [on TV]."



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