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Penguins vs Senators

Penguins, Cooke solely focused on winning

Monday, 05.13.2013 / 3:13 PM

By Chris Adamski - NHL.com Correspondent / Penguins-Senators series blog

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Penguins, Cooke solely focused on winning

PITTSBURGH -- If people still are talking about a feud between the Ottawa Senators and Matt Cooke, no one in the Pittsburgh Penguins' locker room is.

With the Eastern Conference Semifinal series between the teams starting Tuesday, issues surrounding Cooke and the Senators -- Cooke is blamed for the Achilles injury that sidelined Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson for more than two months -- have become an afterthought among the players.

"That's all outside the locker room," Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis said. "It's media, it's Twitter, it's Facebook. It's not stuff that [concerns us]."

"The off-ice stuff and accusations and that stuff, it does not play into the series for our team," added Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma. "We're definitely not going to make it a part of the series for our team. Whether there's emotion there on their side -- I don't think so. I think they'll be focused on winning four hockey games."

Cooke wasn't interested in again discussing the issue. When reporters mobbed his locker Monday, Cooke joked that "Sidney Crosby's locker's over there."

When asked about any lingering animosity between the Senators and him, Cooke said, "You'd have to ask them."

Cooke, who already dealt with the Senators once since Karlsson was hurt, a regular-season game April 22, said he wasn't worried about the Senators targeting him again.

"I've always approached the games that if teams are thinking about me and worrying about me, they're not focusing on what they have to do," he said. "That doesn't change. That's how I approached the series against the Islanders. Nothing else changes."

Crosby, the Penguins' captain, maintained that any Stanley Cup Playoff series will have storylines attached to it and that any opponent will draw disdain over the course of seven games with so much on the line.

This is the fourth time in the past seven seasons that the Penguins and Senators will meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"With the history with them, I'm sure there's a little extra there," Crosby said. "But I think at this point you want every game just as much as you would against any, I guess, 'rival,' you could say."

During practice Monday -- the Penguins' first full practice in a week -- the only lineup change from the team's Game 6 win against the New York Islanders appeared to be on defense, with Deryk Engelland in for Simon Despres. Bylsma had added the swift-skating Despres into the lineup against the speedy Islanders for the final two games of that series.

Norris Trophy finalist Kris Letang was paired with Matt Niskanen, while Engelland was with Douglas Murray. The pair of Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin remained untouched.

Per the lines used in practice Monday, Tyler Kennedy and Joe Vitale each appear to be safe as fourth-liners. They had replaced Jussi Jokinen and Beau Bennett prior to Game 5 against the Islanders.

Bylsma, as per his policy, would not confirm what goalie he will start in Game 1 against the Senators.

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