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Ovechkin isn't a big hit with Crosby

| Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will gladly engage rival elite point-producer Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals in the chase to catch Crosby's teammate, Evgeni Malkin, in the NHL scoring race.

However, Crosby said Monday he will not challenge Ovechkin "to a hitting competition" when the Penguins play the Capitals at Verizon Center on March 8.

"Size is not on my side on that," Crosby said yesterday, a day after he and Ovechkin reignited a personal rivalry that dates to their rookie seasons in 2005-06, when the Washington star edged the face of the Penguins for the Calder Trophy.

"But I can't shy away from it either. There's one puck out there ... that's hockey."

Crosby took exception to "runs" he claims Ovechkin took at him and Malkin during the Capitals' victory over the Penguins at Washington on Sunday. After the game, Ovechkin suggested Crosby talked trash during the contest, and Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau accused the Penguins' captain of "(starting) it... he was jawing at everybody."

Crosby appeared bemused by those accusations yesterday.

"I think I only talked to (Ovechkin) when he ran me a couple of times, so that's the only talking I did and he talked back to me," Crosby said. "I guess if I do it, he does too.

"He taunts and does those things. I don't think that's the way to play. I'm all for playing hard... he plays hard. There's no doubt. He's a tough guy to play against, but he doesn't need to take runs. He went at (Malkin's) head probably three shifts before he went after me. He's hitting to hurt guys in the head."

The feud between Crosby, scoring champ and MVP in 2007, and Ovechkin, who claimed both honors last season, has surpassed the one between Ovechkin and fellow Russian Malkin, who cleared the air last month at the All-Star Game in Montreal after a year of extremely physical showdowns when their clubs played.

Malkin, Crosby and Ovechkin began yesterday as the league's Nos. 1, 2 and 3 scorers.

Crosby and Ovechkin have acknowledged in the past that they respect one another as players, but Crosby is among many Penguins flummoxed by Ovechkin's recent acts, which several of Crosby's teammates have described as "reckless hits."

"We've always had some good battles; for some reason, he's started to run around a little bit more, and he's come after me a little bit more," Crosby said. "He's come after (Malkin) in many cases before. That just makes things a little more intense. That's just the way it is."

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