To be perfectly honest, the bitter rivalry between the NHL’s cover boy [Sidney Crosby] and its bad boy [Alex Ovechkin] has lost some of its shine.
Maybe it’s because Crosby has been plagued by concussions and played against the Capitals just once last season, failing to record a point.
Maybe it’s because Ovechkin is no longer the 60-goal scoring machine he was when he first entered the league after the last lockout.
Or maybe it’s because HBO cameras are no longer following their every move in preparation for a Winter Classic.
Whatever the reasons, today’s Super Bowl appetizer [12:30 p.m., NBC] between the 2-5-1 Capitals and 5-3-0 Penguins hopes to renew some of the star power that’s been lacking the past two years.
Crosby enters the game with four goals and six assists, matching Evgeni Malkin [2 goals, 8 assists] for a team high of 10 points through eight games. Ovechkin, on the other hand, has two goals and one assist after eight games.
“Right now, I’m standing here, I have only three points and it kind of embarrasses me,” Ovechkin said before Sunday’s game. “But it is what it is.”
Ovechkin admitted it’s been an adjustment alternating from left wing to right wing, and that he’s had to adapt to playing on the smaller ice surface of the NHL.
“Of course, the first couple games I talked to [Nicklas Backstrom] because we played together [in Russia] and I asked him how he feels.
“He says, ‘It’s so small.’ In Russia, you have the puck in the corner and you know you have room to make [a play]. Behind the net, the same. Here everything is smaller and faster.”
Malkin also played in the KHL and seems to be adapting just fine. In fact, Malkin and Crosby remain the most lethal one-two center combination in the league. And with both of them healthy, they create migraines for opposing defensemen.
“They are completely different, but they both have the right skills to play each other's style,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said.
“Malkin is so good and so hard to defend. He's got that long reach, you think he's going to dish it and then all of a sudden he pulls it back and right through your legs. He just does things that you don't really expect.”
“It just happens so fast. You don't even get close enough to check him most of the time because he has it on his stick and it's gone. I find that Malkin more sucks you in whereas Crosby doesn't allow you to get there, so it's pretty interesting.”
Erskine out, Poti in: With John Erskine serving the first of a three-game suspension for elbowing Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds, Adam Oates will turn to Tom Poti, who has not played since the third game of the season on Jan. 24.