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Flyers' Talbot defends Crosby

VOORHEES, N.J. — Good friends Max Talbot and Sidney Crosby have stopped exchanging pleasantries during a first-round Stanley Cup playoff series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Penguins, but Talbot defended his former teammate's honor today.

Addressing the Tuesday cover of the Philadelphia Daily News, which depicted Crosby's as the cowardly lion from the "Wizard of Oz," Talbot expressed dismay.

"I think it's a stupid cover," he said after the Flyers' morning practice. "That doesn't reflect what Sidney Crosby is."

Talbot has scored three goals for the Flyers in this best-of-7 series, which resumes tonight at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers lead, 3-0, and can complete a sweep of the Penguins with a victory.

The Penguins will play without three regulars because of suspensions: forwards Craig Adams, Arron Asham and James Neal. Adams and Asham are fourth-line players, but Neal was second on the Penguins with 40 regular-season goals.

Also, regular defenseman Paul Martin may not play because of injury. Simon Despres was recalled from the AHL by the Penguins this morning.

Though their opponent must rely on fill-in players, the Flyers insist they feel a sense of urgency to wrap the series tonight.

"We really don't want to give them life," Flyers center Claude Giroux said. "The Penguins are kind of a streaky team that can win a lot of games in a row."

During the regular season the Penguins' reeled off winning streaks of eight and 11 games.

Neal was suspended late Tuesday for a hit on Giroux, but did not receive additional supplemental discipline for a hit on Flyers rookie center Sean Couturier.

"There's nothing I can really do about it," Couturier said today, adding that he "feels fine" even though he needed assistance from the ice Sunday after receiving the hit by Neal in Game 3. "(Neal's) two hits together got him that one game (suspension)."

Dirty play was a hot topic among the Flyers, who have taken pride in their discipline during this series.

As of this morning the NHL had handed out seven suspensions for illegal infractions during the first week of the playoffs.

A Tuesday night by Phoenix's Raffi Torres on Chicago's Marian Hossa, which sent Hossa to the hospital, drew poor reviews from the Flyers.

"Hockey is a quick sport and sometimes you do something you don't really want to," Giroux said. "But guys have to be responsible for their actions."

Added wingers Scott Hartnell: "You've got to keep your hands down, head up. You have to be more aware. But you have to hit. As long as you do it within the rules. If you don't — you've seen you'll miss a few playoff games."

The Penguins, a 4/1 favorite by Las Vegas bookmakers to win the Cup only a week ago, are on the verge of missing out on a third chance to win the Cup after reclaiming it in 2009. They are 10-13 in playoff games since that postseason. They have lost six straight playoff games dating to last year.

Talbot, who scored the Penguins' only goals in Game 7 of the 2009 Cup Final win at Detroit, acknowledged that finishing an opponent early, as the Penguins did that postseason with a conference final sweep of Carolina, is paramount for any club's chance at a long playoff run.

"But it's more than that (tonight)," he said. "It's having an opponent like the Penguins, knowing what they can do, and having a Game 4 in our building, knowing we can end it now. We're just thinking about putting them away, not thinking about what it means for a Cup run or the rest of the playoffs. We just want to finish them because we have that opportunity tonight."

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