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Despite implications, Penguins franchise centers appear calm, jovial ahead of Game 7

| Monday, May 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby play against the Rangers, 2014 at Consol Energy Center.

Five years ago, this likely never would have happened. Perhaps because it wouldn't have been necessary in the first place.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, and with the Penguins flirting with squandering a 3-1 series lead and the franchise's highest-paid player having one playoff goal, these certainly are that.

On Monday, that equated to franchise centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin answering questions side-by-side at Consol Energy Center in advance of Tuesday's Game 7.

How strange was this?

Crosby often speaks to assembled media twice — TV first, then print and radio — to avoid the news conference setting, partly out of superstition and partly because he doesn't want to appear bigger than his teammates.

Even though his English has improved, Malkin rarely speaks publicly, forget addressing an entire room. Oh, and this followed an optional practice neither participated in.

But if Crosby and Malkin were worried about the suddenly re-energized Rangers and the possibility a Game 7 loss could trigger a franchise shakeup, they hid it well.

Malkin cracked jokes and playfully deferred to Crosby, the captain who laughed when a reporter's ring tone blared — “good song,” he quipped — before finishing his answer.

Neither copped to feeling overloaded by pressure entering the biggest game they've played together since winning the Stanley Cup in Detroit in 2009.

“(The) fun is (Monday),” Malkin said. “You (should) not think about (the) game (Tuesday). ... We just have fun before games, but when you step on (the) ice it's time (to) focus.”

Asked to evaluate how they've grown together as faces of the franchise, the exchange was telling.

Malkin: “Tough question.”

Crosby: “I'll take it,” then joking, “A couple years ago I would have made him answer it.”

A couple of years ago, however, the most pressing question seemed to be who was going to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Malkin had 36 points and won the Conn Smythe in 2009. Crosby finished with 31 points that magical season. They remain the only two players since 1996 to top 30 points in an individual postseason.

And while Malkin has six goals and 13 points these playoffs, Crosby has one goal in his past 17 postseason games dating to Round 2 of last year.

Stressed? Didn't appear so.

“If we're put together, we know we have to create things,” Crosby said. “If we're not, we still have to create things.”

Crosby even downplayed owner Mario Lemieux's visit to the locker room after a Game 6 loss at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, insisting Lemieux seemingly stopped by to double-check the grocery list or talk about the latest episode of “Mad Men.”

“We didn't talk about anything different than we would have this season when we talk after games when he's down in the room,” Crosby said. “But he definitely has a pretty good understanding of dealing with the pressure and things like that.”

Malkin recounted the story of how Crosby talked with him after the Sochi Games.

“He's (the) best player in the world, and I (have) learned a lot,” Malkin said. “ We know we can win, and we (will) do it.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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