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Malkin's dream: Photo with Sidney Crosby and the Stanley Cup

A man of few comments throughout the Stanley Cup Final, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin acknowledged Thursday that one picture would be worth a thousand words.

"I think about it a lot, especially these last (two) weeks," he said, smiling before finishing the sentence. "It's my dream. Me and Sid, just like that."

That is a photo Malkin has seen in several spots at Mellon Arena during his three years in Pittsburgh. The shot is of former Penguins stars Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr smiling as they grip the Stanley Cup from opposite sides. It was taken on June 1, 1992, from a champagne-soaked visiting dressing room at Chicago Stadium.

The Penguins have not won the Cup since.

They will own it for a third time in franchise history with a victory tonight at Joe Louis Arena in Game 7 of an epic Final against the defending-champion Detroit Red Wings.

Malkin, whose disappointing Final performance last season (one goal, three points) remains an unhealed wound, decided before this series to let nothing distract him.

He has rarely spoken to North American media. Teammates insist he is more intense than they can recall from any point in his career, talking constantly of ways for the Penguins to improve.

"Yeah, I'm trying to concentrate on the games," Malkin said yesterday. "The Cup is all I want. I will give 120 percent. I will give everything.

"One win. The Cup. After that I will talk. I will do anything. One win first."

Teammate and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby hasn't allowed the thought of touching the Cup to enter his head, and he doesn't believe the Penguins' fate tonight is tied to just him and Malkin.

"There might be a sense of responsibility," he said, "but everybody feels a part of that."

Penguins center Jordan Staal, whose goals helped the Penguins win Games 4 and 6 at home, said players constantly remind Malkin and Crosby that "they can't do it all themselves."

"We talk about that before games," Staal said. "It doesn't work for us that way. We need everybody, especially against a great team like (the Red Wings)."

Neither Malkin nor Crosby has scored in the past two games, and they have combined for one goal and five points in six Final contests at Detroit over the past two years.

However, if the Penguins' "Mega Powers" combine their might tonight, memories of past Hockeytown failures will fade faster than Pittsburgh public officials can organize a championship parade.

No pressure, though.

"Well, every one of us realizes this game will be one of those we'll always remember," Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar said. "It seems like those guys always do well in those games. It seems like they're born for those games."

In their only other Game 7 - a 6-2 win at Washington last month - Malkin and Crosby combined for two goals and five points.

Of course, in this decade these Red Wings have won more titles (two) than the Capitals franchise has playoff rounds (one).

"They're really good," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said of the Red Wings, who eliminated the Penguins in a six-game Final last season. "And they play them really well. Detroit has done a good job."

In this Final, Detroit has held Crosby, the playoff leader with 15 goals, to only one tally and just three points. Malkin, who leads all players with 35 postseason points, has totaled two goals and seven points, but only a goal and an assist since Game 4.

Crosby, who has never gone three consecutive playoff games in one postseason without a point, doesn't believe he and Malkin are due so much as they will be rewarded for consistently getting chances.

"In Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final you've got to trust all those habits," Crosby said. "All the work that you've put it in, that's when it pays off."

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