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Crosby looking to keep his focus

by Adam Kimelman
PITTSBURGH -- The circus is coming to Washington. The Penguins have a ticket, but they're seemingly in no rush to arrive for the show.

The Pens spent one final day of practice at Mellon Arena Friday prior to flying to Washington, D.C. for the highly anticipated Stanley Cup Playoff showdown with the Washington Capitals, which starts Saturday (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).

"There's been series that I've played in that have had attention, whether it's a Canadian team or the Stanley Cup Final," Crosby said. "It's different, but it's pretty much the same as far as what you see. You learn from those scenarios what you need to focus on, what you need to do, and not get caught up in all that because there is going to be a lot of storylines and things like that, but it's important we focus on what we have to do."

In what is being billed as the biggest second-round playoff series ever, the big names are unmistakable -- Crosby, Malkin, Gonchar, Staal and Fleury on one side, Ovechkin, Semin, Green, Backstrom and Varlamov on the other.

It's the kind of star power that makes Hollywood jealous. It's also the kind of thing that gets players and coaches nervous. With all the attention focused on head-to-head matchups and rivalries, focusing on the task at hand becomes that much harder, because as much as the media might want the players to worry about one-upping each other, what Crosby and his Pittsburgh teammates have to do is focus on stopping the Washington Capitals as a whole. Doing that will not be easy, but the Penguins will have a plan, and it starts with smart play with the puck.

"I think turnovers are going to be big in doing that," Crosby said. "We don't want to turn the puck over. You turn the puck over, you end up chasing. … We definitely want to use our offense, but there's a certain way of doing it. I think managing the puck, that's where it starts. We don't want to get into a 50-50 kind of game, where it's back and forth. We know how we need to play and we'll do the right things."

Part of that right thing means getting the power play going. During Friday's practice it looked like coach Dan Bylsma was one of their more effective players. While he'll be wearing a suit rather than suiting up, he certainly couldn't hurt a unit that went just 1-for-19 in the final four games of its first-round series against Philadelphia.

“The last couple games against Philly we were better," Crosby said. "It comes down to execution. There are times you get four or five chances on the power play and the puck doesn't go in and your power play struggles. Then there are times you feel it's not that good, but you get a bounce and the puck goes in and everyone's talking about how it helped you. Timing is everything with the power play. There are certain points in the game where it can really give you a boost, but it's got to be consistent. We'll look to make sure we execute when we get our chances."

Adding to the rivalry is the long history of Penguins-Capitals playoff series. The teams have met seven times since 1991, with the Penguins winning six of the series, while five of the series going at least six hard-fought games. While they haven't met in the spring since the Penguins beat the Caps in six games in the 2001 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, there's little doubt this meeting has the potential to top all the others.

"I know the two teams have seen each other a lot over the last 15, 20 years," Crosby said. "Like Philly that's a rivalry and this is something that's become a rivalry with Washington, too. Makes for intense games."

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