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Crosby, Guerin back Ovechkin on Games

Sidney Crosby and Washington rival Alex Ovechkin agree on this much: NHL players should participate at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

"Russian or not Russia, I can understand that," Crosby said Saturday in response to Ovechkin's statement last week that he would play for Russia at the 2014 Games even if the league opted against allowing its players to participate.

"We're talking about the Olympics here, celebrating the best athletes in the world. We like to think the NHL is the best league and brings the best players. Why wouldn't you want the best there?

"We feel pretty strongly — me personally, and all the players do — that it could be an opportunity of a lifetime, especially for those guys from Russia. That only happens once in a while."

Crosby is a lock to represent Canada in February at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Other Penguins expected to play for their country's ice hockey teams are center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Sergei Gonchar (Russia), and defenseman Brooks Orpik (United States).

Russia refused to sign a transfer agreement with the NHL in 2007, and reports have surfaced over the past two years that the league may use its players' participation at the Sochi Games as a bargaining chip with the agreement expiring in 2011.

The participation of NHL players at Olympic Games is "the way things are now," according to veteran Penguins winger Bill Guerin.

"Every time, no matter where, we want to be there," said Guerin, who won a silver medal with the United States at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. "That's the way things are now. Pros play in the Olympics, and we shouldn't be any different. It's good for the league and good for the sport, and I think we should be there every time."

Hurts so good

No Penguins players could be expected to arrive at training camp at optimum health given their second consecutive short offseason. However, aside from forward Max Talbot's recovery from offseason surgery to repair a torn left labrum, few concerns exist for the club's training staff.

Gonchar needed neither surgery nor rehabilitation on his right medial collateral ligament, which was sprained during a knee-on-knee collision with Ovechkin during the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"I've done pretty much every workout I've done before," he said.

Crosby, whose left knee was injured on a check by Detroit's Johan Franzen in Game 7 of the Cup Final, said there are "no effects there," adding he "made the most of my summer, and nothing really held me back."

Defenseman Brooks Orpik opted against surgery on a torn tendon in his right hand, choosing instead to heal the injury with rehab treatment.

As for Talbot, he reiterated yesterday his return would come no sooner than mid-November but more likely sometime in December.

Around the boards

Camp's opening practice is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. today at Mellon Arena. Sessions are open to the public. ... Left wing Matt Cooke did not attend the organization's White House visit on Thursday because he was at work on his family's new five-bedroom house in Canada. "I've made more choices with that thing in the last five days than I have the rest of my life," he said. "You kind of underestimate how much it takes to custom build a house." ... NHL Network will televise three exhibition games featuring the Penguins: Sept. 21 at Montreal; Sept. 22 at Toronto; and Sept. 27 at Detroit.

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