PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby maintains the rivalry is still the rivalry -- even if pits a first-place team against one in last place.
"Even (seven years ago) when we were 29th (in the NHL standings), it was a rivalry," Crosby said of the duels between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. "It's developed with history. There's not always clear explanations why teams are rivals, but things build -- and I don't think the standings have any effect on whether it's a rivalry or not."
The Penguins (7-3-1) have won four straight heading into Thursday night's game at Consol Energy Center against the Capitals (2-7-1), who have lost four of five.
The team's plights mirror that of their superstar players. While Pittsburgh's Crosby is tied for fourth in the NHL with 14 points in 10 games, Washington's Alex Ovechkin has been limited to merely being tied for fourth on his own team with five points.
But just as the proverbial records can be thrown out the window when the Penguins and Capitals meet, any showdown between Crosby and Ovechkin will draw attention.
"If you look at the standings, of course, he's way too up and I'm way too down," Ovechkin said Thursday. "So I just have to catch him."
Crosby, Ovechkin and Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin (12 points this season) have combined to win four of the past six Art Ross trophies. Even though Ovechkin has spotted Crosby an early nine-point lead, Crosby isn't conceding anything when it comes to his fellow No. 1 NHL Draft pick.
"With his shot, he's always dangerous -- no matter where he is in the offensive zone," Crosby said. "He's a big guy with a lot of speed, so he creates chances."
Oates is content that his team is playing the way it needs to and that the results will come. He's convinced the same is true of his captain.
"To me, he's fine," Oates said. "He's playing right wing, and he's never played it, and so there's still reads he's making. He's gotten the puck in open ice a lot, so when he's coming down the right side, it's new for him and that's a growing process.
"I don't have any problem with that. He knows what he has to do when he goes on his off side. We're just adding touches to his game. I think that's a big part of it."
While acknowledging that he's still learning about life on the right side, Ovechkin insists he's getting the same amount of opportunities.
"Of course, my job is to score goals," he said. "And I just have to (finish) these chances. When I start (finishing) chances, I'm not going to have any questions anymore."
The same, Ovechkin said, can be said for his team as a whole.
"You always have to be have patience," Ovechkin said. "We're close. Sooner or later, it's going to come."
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