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Penguins notebook: Rivalry with Capitals as heated as ever

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By Josh Yohe
Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 9:16 p.m.

The rivalry between the Penguins and Capitals seems to have faded since the teams met in the Winter Classic two years ago, largely because of Alex Ovechkin's diminished production and Sidney Crosby's inability to get healthy.

Still, players on each side maintain the rivalry remains heated.

“It's always a big deal when we play these guys,” Washington center Jason Chimera said. “I don't think that's going to change anytime soon. Look at the names on the back of the sweaters on these teams. Lots of talent there.”

Ovechkin is always the center of attention when the Capitals come to town and smiled sheepishly when asked about having only five points in the first 10 games.

The Washington captain admitted he must play better and did note one difficult aspect of this season.

“Right wing,” he said. “It's new to me. I'm still learning.”

Ovechkin has played almost his entire career on the left side, but new Washington coach Adam Oates moved him to the right side this season.

• NHL data confirmed the Penguins remain among the league's most popular teams. The league released information Thursday that shows four Penguins jerseys among the 13 best sellers in the NHL in January. No other team has more than one player in the top 13. Sidney Crosby (third), James Neal (fifth), Kris Letang (sixth) and Evgeni Malkin (13th) all found themselves in the top 20. The top sales belonged to Philadelphia's Claude Giroux followed by Chicago's Jonathan Toews. New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan was fourth.

• The Penguins played without Letang on Thursday. The defenseman left during the morning skate, after which coach Dan Bylsma called him a “game-time decision.” It is believed Letang sustained the lower-body injury during the team's recent road trip to Washington and Long Island, N.Y.

• Center Dustin Jeffrey and LW Eric Tangradi were healthy scratches again. Tangradi has been scratched six games in a row, while Jeffrey has been out the past four games.

—Josh Yohe

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