In one of the least surprising NHL awards announcements, Penguins center Sidney Crosby was named as one of three finalists Thursday for the Hart Trophy, which goes to the league’s MVP.
Crosby is widely considered the Hart favorite. He led the NHL this season with 104 points, including a league-best 68 assists. It’s the fifth time he has topped 100 points.
The other finalists are Anaheim center Ryan Getzlaf, who finished second to Crosby in NHL scoring with 87 points, and Philadelphia center Claude Giroux, who finished third with 86.
“It’s an honor,” Crosby said after practice Thursday at Consol Energy Center. “To be recognized with that group of players and to know who’s won that in the past, it’s an honor.”
Crosby previously won the Hart in 2006-07. The winner is determined by a vote of select members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The NHL will name its trophy winners June 24 in Las Vegas.
Malkin savors old team’s title
Center Evgeni Malkin earlier this week was joined by several Penguins teammates to pose for a photo with a sign wishing good luck to his Russian hometown team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk.
Perhaps, it helped. Metallurg won the Kontinenal Hockey League championship, the Gagarin Cup, with a 7-4 win Wednesday against Lev Prague. It was the first KHL title for Magnitogorsk, which won three Russian Super League championships before the KHL’s inception.
“It’s a good year for my team,” said Malkin, who played for Metallurg before joining the Penguins and again during the 2012-13 NHL lockout. “I’m so excited because it’s [been] a long time. I know how the fans, people who live in Magnitogorsk, like hockey. Every game sells out. It’s a big win for the city and the team.”
After Metallurg won, team members returned the favor, posing with a good-luck sign for the Penguins as they enter the second round of the playoffs against the New York Rangers and sending the photo to Malkin.
The Rangers would seem to have a greater chance for fatigue than the Penguins in the series that opens tonight at Consol Energy Center.
Not only will the teams play back-to-back games in different cities Sunday and Monday, but the Rangers just played Games 6 and 7 of the first round against Philadelphia Tuesday and Wednesday in different cities.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang doesn’t see it that way. He thinks about momentum.
“We’ll try to take advantage, but they’re on a roll right now,” Letang said of the Rangers. “They’re on a high. They won a Game 7. We’ll try to disrupt that.”
At the same time, Letang liked the fact that, while the Rangers were sewing up their first-round series, then traveling but not practicing Thursday, the Penguins had a day off Tuesday and practices Wednesday and Thursday.
“Having those two days to practice was huge for us,” Letang said.
Although the Rangers will have played five games in seven nights and six games in nine days by the end of Game 3, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is looking more at the back-to-back games in this series, making it three games in four days that both clubs will have to deal with.
“That catches your eye,” Bylsma said. “It’s a lot of hockey in a short amount of time. Both teams are traveling.
“The schedule always seems to have its quirks, whether you have two days off in between games and you’re worried about too much rest and a break in between [as the Penguins had in the first round against Columbus], or this one you’re playing back-to-back nights.
“I don’t think it’s an advantage, disadvantage. I didn’t look at it too much other than to know we’re getting on a plane at some time [Sunday] night and getting to New York and getting ready to play Game 3 on the road.”
Besides, Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen said, “Nobody’s pacing themselves this time of year.”
Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.