Penguins notebook: Intensity remains for game against Capitals
Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is stopped y Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury during the Winter Classic at Heinz Field on Jan. 1.
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If it were not for injuries to forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Mark Letestu and Arron Asham, the Penguins' game today at Washington would mark the return to normalcy for what has become an intense rivalry.
The previous time the teams played was New Year's Day in the outdoor Winter Classic at Heinz Field, a 3-1, rain-soaked Washington win. Even when they met for the first time this season, a 3-2 Penguins shootout victory Dec. 23 in Washington, there already was immense buildup for the outdoor game.
"I think every time we play them, it's always a tough game, an intense game," Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said Saturday. "Losing that one at Heinz Field is a little tough. I know everybody's looking forward to playing that one [today].
"It was even for both sides playing outside on that ice, but it's just back to normal, a hockey rink."
Gone is the crew from HBO, which was filming a "24/7" series during the first two games.
"It's about winning the game against one of the top teams in the East," said forward Max Talbot.
"There are no cameras around, no HBO, and we're not going to play outside. But it's still a team that we like to play."
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters after his team's practice Saturday that the Penguins will be highly motivated.
"I wish they weren't, but they're going to be," he said. "So we'd better be ready for a hurricane to blow into town."
For many, the Penguins-Capitals game can serve as the early segment of a sports doubleheader with the Super Bowl. The Penguins are eager to get home in time to see the Steelers play Green Bay.
A few of the Penguins have an interesting story about loyalties:
• Center Jordan Staal didn't care anything about the NFL or know anything about the Steelers when he arrived from Ontario as a teenager in 2006.
"Living here, it's hard not to start watching and start loving the Steelers and what they do," he said.
"It's definitely something that I enjoy watching now. I'm very excited for them."
• Winger Eric Tangradi grew up in Philadelphia, but is making allowances for the Steelers.
"I was joking a little bit in an interview last week about hating the Steelers, but, since it's the state of Pennsylvania, I can root for the Steelers, and, being in Pittsburgh, it doesn't hurt, either," said Tangradi, who last week was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
"I'm a big-time Eagles and Phillies fan, but the Eagles are out," he said. "They didn't belong in the Super Bowl, so I can cheer for the Steelers now."
• Defenseman Ben Lovejoy is from New Hampshire, a diehard New England Patriots fan. He pulled for the Steelers to beat the New York Jets in the AFC title game because the Jets had ousted New England and because "they're just generally obnoxious," he said.
"This week, I'm cheering for the Steelers again because I'm here, but I'm not going to live and die as if it was the Patriots playing."
Those words brought howls from eavesdropping defenseman Alex Goligoski, a Packers fan who apparently thought he had an ally in Lovejoy.
"Goligoski, it makes no sense why he's a Green Bay fan; he's from Minnesota," Lovejoy said between fits of laughter. "I went to my first Steelers game this year, and I had a good time, so I'll be cheering for them."
The game he saw? The 39-26 loss to New England, of course.
Crosby will miss his 13th game today. He had a 25-game points streak earlier and was leading the NHL with 66 points in 41 games before a concussion forced him out of the lineup.
For some perspective on how dominant he was, consider that going into Saturday, Crosby would have been the leading scorer for 28 of the 30 NHL teams. He would have held at least a 10-point lead over the next-highest scorer on 27 teams and at least a 20-point lead on 19 teams.
Defenseman Zbynek Michalek was excused from practice but is expected to play today, coach Dan Bylsma said. ... Tangradi lost a shootout with Wilkes-Barre before his promotion, but he has not shaved the moustache that was his penance. "Out of respect to the moustache and to the boys in Wilkes-Barre, I'm going to keep it going for the time being," he said.
First Published February 6, 2011 12:00 am