Russian plane crash deeply affects Malkin

| Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011

The Penguins and Washington Capitals plan to downplay their rivalry when they play at Consol Energy Center on Oct. 13.

The clubs that Russian superstars Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin call their own are joining forces to raise funds for the families of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the Kontinental Hockey League squad that perished in a plane crash Sept. 7.

Players will wear jerseys with commemorative patches. Those jerseys will be autographed and auctioned on the NHL's official website, with proceeds going to the deceased Lokomotiv players' families. The auction will run from Oct. 13-27.

"(Alex and I) were born in Russia," Malkin said Tuesday. "We know these guys. We (played) with these guys on the national team. We need to help their families because those are (our) guys."

In the days after the crash, Malkin filmed video messages in English and Russian to share his thoughts on the disaster. Around the same time, he asked the Penguins for help in raising money for the victims' families.

Familiar feeling

Penguins center Sidney Crosby knows better than any of Malkin's teammates how a plane crash can impact a community. He was just shy of turning 11 when Swissair Flight 111 crashed in the Atlantic Ocean southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Crosby was born and raised in nearby Cole Harbour.

"Even in that situation I remember people taking in families from all over Europe, letting them stay while they figured out what was going to happen," Crosby said. "That's just being a good neighbor, being a good person, and trying to make sure you can help anyone you can."

Crosby remains available for only noncontact participation in practices.

Orpik unsure

Defenseman Brooks Orpik (abdominal) practiced yesterday before the Penguins departed for a season-opening trek through Western Canada, but he wouldn't predict if he would play in games at Vancouver, Edmonton or Calgary.

"It seems like it's moving in the right direction," Orpik said. "I probably got a little too aggressive with it (during this training camp) rather than kind of easing into it and progressing at a slower rate. I only skated a couple of times at home before I came here, and that first day I just jumped right in with guys who had been skating longer."

Coach Dan Bylsma said Kris Letang, who normally plays as a right defenseman, will work the left side in games Orpik cannot play. Other left defensemen will be Paul Martin and Matt Niskanen, who like Letang is a right-handed shot.

Around the boards

Center Jordan Staal was given the day off, but Bylsma said he will practice today and play tomorrow at Vancouver. ... The Penguins welcomed to their practice Verona's Cy Clark, a longtime season-ticket holder famous for his Hulk Hogan look and varied jerseys poking fun at opposing players. Clark was diagnosed with throat cancer in June and spent the past few months undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He has lost about 40 pounds, but he said his prognosis for a full recovery is good.

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