The gritty tabloid which has served Philadelphia so well over the past 87 years was placed in the lap of Penguins center Sidney Crosby on Wednesday morning.
Crosby, 24, said he had not seen Wednesday’s Philadelphia Daily News – which featured him dressed as a lion with the headline “The Cowardly Penguin: Time to Finish Off Sniveling Sidney.”
Crosby picked up the paper and laughed.
“That’s probably one of the nicer things they’ve said about me here,” Crosby said.
Crosby was more focused on the Penguins avoiding their first sweep in 33 years.
In order to do so, the Penguins will have to do it without defenseman Paul Martin (undisclosed injury), forward James Neal (one-game suspension), forward Arron Asham (four-game ban), and forward Craig Adams (automatic one-game suspension).
“We’ve got to win a hockey game, that’s really all we’re thinking about,” Crosby said. “I think we have a lot of depth, that quality is something we pride ourselves on. We’re more than capable of providing offense here in one game.”
None of the Penguins seemed overly disappointed or surprised about Brendan Shanahan’s rulings. Defenseman Brooks Orpik, in fact, said he wished most could see what Shanahan’s decision process is like to truly appreciate how tough his job can be.
Neal, a 40-goal scorer, is a significant loss. But so is Adams, who is one of Pittsburgh’s top penalty killers. The Flyers have victimized Pittsburgh on the power play, connecting on 6-of-10 opportunities over the first three games.
Now, the Penguins are without their top forward on the PK and a defenseman who also sees time on that unit.
“Somebody else has to step up,” Orpik said. “(Adams) played a lot of minutes. But no matter who is on the penalty kill, it’s not going to change how aggressive you are or how you play it. Someone else is just going to get more minutes.
“Penalty killing takes a lot of out of guys. We’ve watched a lot of video. Just like our 5-on-5 play, we’ve been making a lot of mistakes – uncharacteristic mistakes that we don’t really have a reason for them. They’re not effort mistakes, just maybe mental focus.”
Now, the Penguins are expected to drop four relative rookies – with Eric Tangradi, Joe Vitale and Dustin Jeffrey up front and Ben Lovejoy on the back-end – into an Eastern Conference quarterfinal pressure cooker.
“It’s not any other (game),” coach Dan Bylsma said. “I know the group of guys in there plan on winning our first game here in Philly.”
When asked about his team’s mental state, Bylsma said “I think we’re ready to be at our best tonight.”
And that mental fragility, after being beaten every which way through the first three games of the series, will be the most interesting factor. Unfortunately, Game 4 – judging by the way the series has gone – probably won’t be able to tell much in the first five or 10 minutes.
“Individually, we haven’t been very good,” Orpik said. “We can’t change the outcome of the first three games. We’ve just got to try not to make the same mistakes.”
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