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Ovechkin, Caps up for Crosby-Malkin challenge

Wednesday, 05.06.2009 / 1:17 PM / Conference Semifinals: Washington vs. Pittsburgh

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- If Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin wind up playing on the same line in Game 3 Wednesday night, Alex Ovechkin knows the kind of trouble that could cause for the Washington Capitals.

"They're a pretty good team when both players play well," Ovechkin said after the Capitals' morning skate. "It's going to be a big challenge for us when they play together."

The Penguins haven't gotten production from both of their superstars in this series yet, but Ovechkin said that's because the Capitals are doing a good job just playing a simple game against Malkin.

Malkin has an assist in each game, but he hasn't scored a goal since Game 3 against Philadelphia, which puts him on a five-game goalless streak. Crosby has four of the Penguins five goals in this series, but the Caps lead, 2-0, heading into Game 3.

"I think we go hard against him, don't give him any room in our zone and play a physical game against him," Ovechkin said. "But, you can't forget the whole team. They have pretty good skill guys and all lines can score goals."

That being said, most of the Capitals are saying they aren't doing a good enough job on Malkin because he has gotten significant scoring chances against Simeon Varlamov. The difference is that Crosby has buried four of his, while Malkin has not gotten even one.

"Everybody gets chances to score goals," Ovechkin said. "It's good for us that he didn't score."

Ovechkin has scored four goals in this series as well, including his incredible hat trick Monday night in Game 2. Asked Wednesday morning if he thinks the Penguins will play harder defensively on him knowing that he's been on fire, Ovechkin tossed praise toward the opposite dressing room.

"I think they've played great defensively," he said. "I don't know if they're going to play harder, but they've played great."

The stories around Ovechkin in this series have stretched well beyond the boards.

After Tuesday's practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va., No. 8 had some strong words about Chris Kunitz's late-game hit to the neck area of Varlamov seconds before Crosby scored his third goal with 30.4 seconds left in Game 2. Ovechkin was hoping the League would suspend Kunitz, but instead the Pittsburgh wing was given a fine and he will be in the lineup for Game 3.

Asked for his opinion on the League's decision not to suspend Kunitz, all Ovechkin would say is, "What can I say about it? It's an NHL call."

Ovechkin does not expect the Capitals to target Kunitz in Game 3.

"It's done," he said. "It was last game. Right now it's a different game. Nothing is going to happen. It's a call for the League. We're just hockey players."

There has also been some complaining coming out of the Penguins dressing room that Ovechkin is using an illegal stick. Specifically, Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said Tuesday that he wouldn't be surprised if the curve on Ovechkin's stick was illegal.

Ovechkin has never been caught using an illegal stick -- the blade curve can't be more than three-quarters of an inch -- but Crosby, whose blade barely has a curve, offered a pot shot Wednesday morning.

Crosby-Ovechkin Gear Alex Ovechkin Gear Sidney Crosby Gear "I don't have to change my stick in the third period or anything like that," No. 87 said. "I don't have to worry about the curve. He's got a big curve."

The Penguins' complaints were news to Ovechkin.

"I didn't even know about it," he said. "What can I say? Nothing."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com
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The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

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