Penguins notebook: Crosby handling slump in own way



COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In late March, Evgeni Malkin said a pep talk from fellow Penguins star Sidney Crosby helped him break out of a funk after the disappointment of Russia failing to medal at the Sochi Olympics.

So which teammate does Crosby turn to when, say, he's in a playoff goal drought?

None.

"You just try to keep things the same, and, hopefully, it has been something that -- besides watching the games -- if you see me in the [locker] room, you haven't been able to tell whether I had three goals or zero the night before," Crosby said Monday before Game 6 against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.

Going into the game, he had a streak of 10 postseason games in a row without a goal, dating to last year.

"Your attitude can't change," Crosby said. "You can't change the way you work or anything like that. Hopefully, I don't look like a guy who needs some counseling. It's always nice to be rewarded and to score, don't get me wrong, but you do have to understand that that does happen sometimes. You've got to find a way to successful."

Crosby, who won the NHL scoring title this season, said none of his teammates have approached him to talk about scoring, not even when he missed an empty net late in Game 5, his fifth shot that missed the net that night.

"Hopefully, it's not at that point quite yet," he said. "I still feel like I'm getting chances and hope it's going to go in."

Then he added, with a smile, "I'm sure they didn't want to bring it up after I missed the empty-netter. I wouldn't appreciate that."

Blue Jackets have fun

Columbus had been in only one series before facing the Penguins, and a lot of the Blue Jackets got their first exposure to the Stanley Cup playoffs in this series.

An unscientific sampling before Game 6 indicated that they weren't disappointed by what they had experienced.

"It's definitely ramped up from the regular season," left winger Matt Calvert said. "More guys finishing their checks. ... You want to take their will away. It's been a high pace, but it's been a lot of fun."

Center Ryan Johansen, who figures to become the face of the franchise in coming seasons, agreed.

"It's been great," he said. "It's been fast, physical. Just like playoff hockey."

New view of Crosby

Left winger Chris Kunitz has spent a lot of time on the ice alongside Crosby since joining the Penguins in 2009.

And in the past week or so, he has spent quite a bit next to Crosby off the ice, too, because he was assigned a stall next to Crosby's in the visiting locker room at Nationwide Arena.

Stalls flanking Crosby's generally go to players with little seniority because of the horde of reporters and cameramen who descend on Crosby after nearly every practice and game.

And so it was after the game-day skate Monday, when Kunitz barely had enough space to remove his gear when Crosby began dealing with the first wave of media.

Kunitz, though, said he didn't object to the arrangement.

"That's a good spot to sit," he said. "You get to learn something from Sid every time, so I can put up with a little media once in a while."

Atkinson pays back fans

One of the Blue Jackets' young players, winger Cam Atkinson, was finishing dinner with his father Sunday evening when his girlfriend told him about a group of fans already camped out outside of Nationwide Arena to wait for the select number of tickets the Blue Jackets set aside for game-day sales.

Atkinson decided to stop by.

"I was just trying to surprise them with a couple of autographs and some sticks," he said.

He did more than that. He went to an ATM and withdrew enough money to get tickets for the 10 hearty souls.

"It seemed like they were having a great time," Atkinson said. "They were ready. They had a little cookout. I think if they're going to join the battle like we do, I might as well pay back the favor."

By 9 a.m. Monday, there was a small tent/umbrella city of fans waiting for tickets in a steady rain.

Tip-ins

The Penguins played a second consecutive game without defenseman Brooks Orpik, who has an unspecified injury. Winger Brian Gibbons, who got hurt early in Game 2, was on the ice for the game-day skate but did not play. ... Columbus coach Todd Richards poked some fun at himself when he slipped and confirmed that it was a shoulder injury that kept winger R.J. Umberger, a Plum native, out of the game. The Blue Jackets made one other lineup change, dressing defenseman Nick Schultz instead of Nikita Nikitin.

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 or Twitter @pgshelly. Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.


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