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Penguins welcome challenge from Predators in Cup Final

Expect tough matchup against Nashville's deep defense, goalie Pekka Rinne

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins were in a familiar position Thursday.

After a 3-2 double-overtime win against the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Pittsburgh stood with the Prince of Wales Trophy as the crowd at PPG Paints Arena chanted, "We want the Cup!"

That moment was fleeting.

Shortly after captain Sidney Crosby hoisted the trophy, which he's done in each of his two Stanley Cup championship runs, he ordered his teammates to the locker room. Crosby and the Penguins knew their job wasn't done.

One team remains between the Penguins and a second straight championship.

Pittsburgh will quickly transition to their matchup with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final. Game 1 is here Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports, SN).

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"You watch a lot of games in the playoffs and you see the way [the Predators] play," Crosby said. "They're playing with a ton of energy. They're a quick team. They play well as a five-man unit out there. Their [defensemen] join the play and they play a really quick-paced game, so it should be some exciting hockey as far as back-and-forth and fast and physical. I think both teams like to play a pretty similar style."

That could be a change of pace from this series. The Senators attempted to slow the Penguins, leading to four of the seven games resulting in tight, defensive contests, five decided by one goal.

Nashville could also effectively shut down Pittsburgh's speed. Its defense won't be the lone issue, however.

"I think they're a great hockey team," Penguins defenseman Ian Cole said. "We've played a lot of great hockey teams and, quite frankly, there are only great hockey teams left at this point. They're playing great. They're a special hockey team and probably one of the best D-corps in the League. That's going to be a challenge for us to solve.

"Not only how strong they are defensively, but also how they can add in offensively. They have some big shots and they have some big-time forwards that step up in big situations. It's going to be a challenge."

There was one more challenge Cole made sure to mention.

"Also, solving [Predators goalie] Pekka Rinne is going to be a challenge," Cole said.

Rinne enters the Stanley Cup Final with a 1.70 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in 16 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has allowed fewer than three goals in 11 games, but allowed at least three in three against the Anaheim Ducks in the six-game Western Conference Final.

Pittsburgh has three days to prepare for Rinne, defenseman P.K. Subban, former Penguins forward James Neal and the rest of the Predators. It welcomes that matchup.

Really, the Penguins would welcome any matchup because it means they're one step closer to hoisting the Stanley Cup again, which would make them the first team since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings to repeat.

"We're just excited to get on to the next round," forward Conor Sheary said. "That's what we ultimately want and we just have to come prepared for that."

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