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Penguins' Crosby gets last chance to impact series

by Adam Kimelman

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Tuesday there will be one defining image of Game 7 of his team's Eastern Conference Second Round series with the New York Rangers.

He doesn't know what that picture will be, or who will be in it. But there's a pretty good chance it could include Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

When the Penguins take the ice against the Rangers on Tuesday at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), Crosby will be the most talented player out there. But he'll also be a player with one goal in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games this year, and three points in six games in the series.

It's not that Crosby has played poorly in the postseason. He has nine points in 12 games. He's won 57.3 percent of his faceoffs against the Rangers, including 66.7 percent in Games 5 and 6. And he's the second-best possession player in the postseason, with a Corsi-for percentage of 61.1 percent.

But when you're Sidney Crosby, and you have the resume he's built in nine seasons in the NHL, strong possession numbers and faceoff-success rates are not what people are looking for. And Crosby knows as much.

"I think everyone puts pressure on themselves," he said. "As far as talking about myself, of course I put more pressure on myself to make sure I'm at my best. You want to help the team as much as you can. Big game, big moment, you want to be at your best."

There can be such a thing as trying too hard, and Crosby clearly has looked frustrated by the way the Rangers are playing against him. That spilled over in Game 6 when he instigated a scrum at the end of the second period that resulted in him starting the third period in the penalty box while the Penguins trailed 3-1.

"I think in some aspects you have to guard against every player trying to do too much," Bylsma said. "There's going to be 2,000 plays in this game and every player is going to have [the game] on his stick [in Game 7]. Every player is going to be in position to make that play. That's what you have to be ready for. We need and we want to be at our best, and that's everybody. That's Sidney Crosby. He's our best player. That's Evgeni Malkin, our other best player. We need everyone at their best. It's going to come down to that one play and that's what we want our players ready for."

Crosby has played mostly on a line with Malkin and Chris Kunitz against the Rangers, but Bylsma would not comment on whether that would be kept intact for Game 7.

"I don't think I have to worry about how Sid plays or if he's trying to do too much," Kunitz said. "He's the best player in the world. He drives our team. He does a lot for our team, taking defensive-zone faceoffs, offensive-zone faceoffs, scoring timely goals. He's done it all. He always has."

Crosby said he's not going to change his preparation heading into Game 7; he gets ready for opening night or Game 51 in the regular season or the seventh game of the second round of the playoffs the same way because it eases some of the pressure when you're playing a win-or-else game.

"You want to be at your best at times like this," he said. "There's no guarantees for anybody. You go out there, you leave it all on the ice and trust that you'll have success."

Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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