Pens rookie Sidney Crosby is taking a lot of heat for yapping at opponents and arguing with officials, but friends and foes alike say you have to admire his fire.
"You want a player to be emotional, you don't want a dud out there,'' said teammate Mark Recchi. "You want him to play with passion.''
Oiler coach Craig MacTavish agrees - better that a young kid steps over the line a few times than acts like he's scared to be out there.
"It's good to see that competitiveness,'' said MacT, who'd probably like a little of that spunk from Jani Rita. "That's what you want from a player, somebody who's passionate about the game.''
Crosby knows he has to tone it down a bit. He's a smart kid who doesn't take long to pick things up.
"For any young players there's always going to be challenges and there's always going to be adversity,'' he said. "It's always been like that. I'm learning as I go along. And I have a lot to learn about being better for what I go through.''
The Oilers shut him down completely last Wednesday, but there were moments - like when he turned their whole team inside out - that made your jaw drop.
"There was one shift where we gave him a little ice in the neutral zone and we couldn't even touch the puck,'' said Shawn Horcoff. "We quickly saw the future of this kid - the skill. He's as fast, shifty and creative as there is out there and he's only 18. You wonder what the limits are.''
JAGR SPEAKS HIGHLY OF HEMSKY
Speaking of kids who will be something special, Jaromir Jagr can't say enough about fellow Czech Ales Hemsky, a teammate at the last World Championships.
"I respect him,'' said Jagr. "I like the kid a lot. He's got the attitude to be a great player. He's not afraid. He doesn't give a (bleep). That's the attitude you need to be a great player. He's not afraid to make a great play. If he works hard and plays the same way, he can be a very, very, very good player. He is already, but, wait till the next level.''
RATTY RINK IN STEELTOWN
You don't have to be in Mellon Arena long to understand why the Penguins want out. Its dreary and depressing.
The visitors dressing room, without a word of exaggeration, is no bigger or better than the dressing rooms at Coronation Arena and the home team's room isn't much better. It's ratty, there's no music, it isn't decorated with Penguins memorabilia at all and the only hint that this team ever won the Stanley Cup is an 8x10 picture over the thermostat that looks like some kid cut it from a magazine and got it framed for three bucks.
The room they use for the coaches post-game news conference doubles as the employee smoking lounge. Classy.
"You think this is a bad rink, you should play in Russia,'' said Jussi Markkanen, who did last year. "There are some nice ones, but ... you just hope that it's nice outside because it's going to be just as cold inside.''
NUMBER SWAP 'NO-BRAINER' FOR GRAVY
The last Ranger to wear No. 11 before Mark Messier was Adam Graves, who switched to No. 9. There wasn't as much pomp and circumstance to the transfer as one might think.
"I'd like to say there was this great ceremony and everything, but there wasn't,'' said Graves. "It was a no-brainer. All I can say about the whole thing is it would be a good trivia question.''
ODD COUPLE NO. 1
Ken Hitchcock related this description of Olympic roommate Jacques Martin to reporters in Florida.
"I'm not that messy, but he's way over on the other side. Everything is in the drawer in the proper area. The pencils are all lined up. Everything faces the same direction. There's not a piece of paper upside down. He makes his bed every (day), and when you go in the bathroom it looks like nobody's been in there. It's a little unnerving, to tell you the truth.''
ODD COUPLE NO. 2
Chris Osgood, to the Detroit Free Press, on his most annoying roommate, fellow goalie Norm Maracle: "He wouldn't leave his bed. He just laid there the whole time. I had to do everything. He'd order room service, and I'd have to go get it at the door. He always ordered ice cream, and I'd have to bring it to him in his bed.
"He was messy, too. His stuff would be all over the place. And he'd never take those room-service trays out of the room, either, so I'd have to do that, too. He drove me crazy. I like things to be neat, and he was just a mess.''
ARMENIA SHUT OUT - IN A BIG WAY!
When you think your team had a tough night, think about Armenia at the recent IIHF World Under-20 Division III tournament. They lost 50-0 to Iceland.
They were outshot 133-10, gave up seven shorthanded goals and allowed 20 goals in the third period. Harutyun Baluyan went the whole way in net (Take that, Patrick Roy).
The game begs two questions: When did Icelanders become such jerks, and, how bad is your backup goalie when he doesn't get into a 50-0 game?
Two Armenian players finished the game at minus-35. The top Icelander was plus-19.
DOT DOT DOT ...
Any fears that there isn't a God were put to rest last week when Bryan Marchment had to be helped off the ice after one of his patented knee-on-knee hits ... You have to like Detroit to win the Cup. Not just because they're first in the West, but because it's an Olympic year. The Wings came back from the last two Olympic breaks, in 1998 and 2002 to win the championship ... Quietly in the running for a ring, former Oiler Dan Cleary, fitting into a fourth-line and penalty-killing role in Detroit.
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BIG GAMES THIS WEEK
RANGERS AT WINGS: After wins over the Oilers and Flames, NYR gets another stiff West test.
MONDAY, JAN. 16
SENATORS AT WILD: A battle of styles and wills. Can Minnesota's trap stop the Sens' skill?
THURSDAY, JAN. 19
THRASHERS AT KINGS: A shootout at the Staples Centre between two teams that like to gun.
THURSDAY, JAN. 19
BLUES AT CAPS: The worst two teams in the league. Sometimes these games are fun.