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, Pa. (AP) Sidney Crosby has faced the
Washington Capitals three times in the playoffs. All three times the Pittsburgh
captain has led his team to victory. And all three times the Penguins used the
win as the springboard to a raucous mid-June parade with the Stanley Cup in
tow.Still, Crosby sounded like a cautious investor on Tuesday when asked if
Pittsburgh has a mental advantage over rival Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals
heading into yet another postseason showdown in the Eastern Conference
semifinals starting later this week.Past performance, the two-time MVP stressed,
does not guarantee future results.”I think it depends on what you do in the
series and how you play,” Crosby said. ”I don’t think it plays a huge role. I
guess to answer your question, no.”A mantra Crosby’s teammates repeated over and
over they prepared for yet another showdown in a rivalry that somehow manages to
be both compelling and one-sided. Pittsburgh is 9-1 all-time in the postseason
against Washington regardless of who is in the black-and-gold sweaters and who
is in red, white and blue.Not that Ovechkin is intimidated. The Capitals star
said he “can’t wait” to get another shot at the Penguins after spearheading
Washington’s first-round win over Columbus in six games. That’s fine by
Pittsburgh, which has played Lucy to Washington’s Charlie Brown for more than a
quarter century Carter
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, dangling a potentially deep playoff run in
front of the Capitals only to pull it back at the last minute.The Penguins,
however, remain wary. Just because they always beat Washington doesn’t mean
they’re going to always beat Washington. The teams split their four meetings
during the regular season, with the Capitals wrapping up their third straight
Metropolitan Division title with a 3-1 win in Pittsburgh on April Fool’s Day.Of
course, none of it matters once the puck drops in Game 1.”It’s a new year,”
Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang said. ”The series is going to play out
differently. The game is going to be won differently. You don’t know how it is
going to go. The only thing I know is it’s a good rivalry, two really good
teams, two teams that have a lot of punch offensively. It’s going to be fun to
be a part of.”Particularly for Letang. He missed all of Pittsburgh’s run to a
second straight Stanley Cup last spring while recovering from neck
surgery Chris
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, though he was able to make his way to the
arena for Game 7 of the conference semifinals, when Marc-Andre Fleury stopped
all 29 shots he faced and the Penguins escaped with a 2-0 victory to finish a
series in which both teams scored 20 goals and won on opposing ice at least
twice.Though there are a handful of new faces on both sides, the principals
remain the same. Ovechkin and Crosby. Evgeni Malkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
Letang and Braden Holtby. Two weeks of taut, tense hockey in the offing.”I think
it’s the same old dangerous team,” Letang said. ”Like, don’t get me wrong, those
series went the distance, they went to overtime. It was a tough matchup that
could have gone either way. They cause the same problems to our team. They cause
problems on the power play. They have a lot of skill. They make a lot of
plays.”Yet the Penguins have always found a way to make at least one
more Brandon
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, though they may be at less than 100 percent
when things get going. Malkin and forward Carl Hagelin both missed practice on
Tuesday. Malkin is dealing with a lower-body injury while Hagelin has an
upper-body issue after colliding with Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux in
Pittsburgh’s clinching victory over the Flyers in Game 6.That could provide more
playing time for players like Riley Sheahan – who filled in capably on the
second line for Malkin in Game 6 – and rookie Zach Aston-Reese. The 23-year-old
was in high school the first time Crosby and Ovechkin met in the playoffs in
2009 – when the Penguins blitzed the Capitals in Game 7 of the conference
semifinals on their way to the Cup.This time, Aston-Reese’s view will be
markedly different. He noticed an uptick in intensity from the regular season
when the Penguins fended off the Flyers. Now, the dial goes up to 11 and stays
there.”I expect every game to be almost like a Game 7,” Aston-Reese said.That’s
because it almost always is.— GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes signed
Darcy Kuemper to a two-year contract extension Thursday, a day after acquiring
the goalie from the Los Angeles Kings. Financial terms were not disclosed.”The
Coyotes have a young and talented team and a very bright future ahead,” the
27-year-old Kuemper said in a team statement. ”I’m excited to be a part of it
and can’t wait to contribute.”The Coyotes sent speedy forward Tobias Rieder and
goalie Scott Wedgewood to Los Angeles in the trade.The 6-foot-5 Kuemper, from
Saskatoon Cam
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, Saskatchewan, was 10-1-3 with a 2.10
goals-against average and three shutouts in 19 games for the Kings this season.
He will team in goal with starter Antti Raanta.”You need two goalies to win in
this league,” general manager John Chayka said. ”Antti is one and now we feel
confident that we’ve got the second one in Darcy.”Kuemper is 51-35-17 with a
2.52 GAA and 10 shutouts in 104 career games with Minnesota and Los Angeles.The
Coyotes hosted the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.
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