Penguins catch Pirates fever and have fun with it

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You can't keep the Penguins' top line down, even when it's a fun but competitive show of support for their baseball brethren.

Chris Kunitz hit a three-run home run for the only scoring and made a diving, inning-ending catch; Pascal Dupuis pitched a shutout; and Sidney Crosby, wearing a goalie's glove, was the catcher on the winning team Tuesday as the Penguins played a post-practice, on-ice game of whiffle ball. It was in honor of the Pirates, who faced Cincinnati at PNC Park in a National League wild-card game Tuesday, their first time in the postseason in the past 21 years.

"Just a little fun game. We're all excited about [the Pirates]," said Crosby, who was a catcher in high school but laughed and said playing a version of the game on skates "doesn't feel anything like it does on grass, let's put it that way."

When the formal part of their practice ended at Consol Energy Center, coach Dan Bylsma, wearing a Roberto Clemente No. 21 Pirates jersey, spray-painted bases and a pitching "mound" on the ice while players retreated to the locker room to exchange their shoulder pads and practice jerseys for Pirates T-shirts.

The North American players had an advantage over the Europeans, who had little to no baseball experience.

Finnish defenseman Olli Maatta failed to keep hold of the plastic bat on his first swing, and it went flying. Russian center Evgeni Malkin looked far from graceful when Dupuis struck him out swinging on three pitches.

Malkin redeemed himself when he pitched an inning, zinging the ball and getting Crosby out on a pop-up with the bases loaded.

Dupuis didn't want anyone to take him too seriously as a pitcher.

"Please. Are you kidding me?" he said. "Make that part funny. I broke my arm twice throwing snowballs when I was 12 and 13."

But Dupuis enjoyed the spirit of it all.

Last spring, when the Penguins were in the playoffs, the Pirates wore Penguins jerseys around PNC Park and when they traveled.

"We had the mindset of supporting them," Dupuis said of the Pirates. "They've done it for us. We get to return the favor."

Bylsma and several of the Penguins planned to attend the Pirates game, with Bylsma lamenting that he couldn't decide "what color face paint I'm going with."

penguins

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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