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Malkin, most Penguins afflicted with bad case of Steelers fever

| Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011

Evgeni Malkin doesn't want his Steelers Fever to break, so he bought a black knit cap to keep his head warm.

“I needed something with (the Steelers) logo; two days ago I got (the cap) at Giant Eagle,” he said Friday before the Penguins played the Buffalo Sabres at Consol Energy Center.

Fans were encouraged by the Penguins to bring “Terrible Towels” to the game to support the Steelers — and even Wisconsin-born Penguins defenseman Alex Goligoski had tempered his support of the Green Bay Packers.

“I don't really care that much who wins,” he said, albeit through gritted teeth. “I mean, I'd be bummed out if the Steelers lost, too.”

Malkin, who played last night after missing five games because of a sinus infection, said he is completely caught up in Super Bowl hype. His favorite Steelers:

“No. 43 — he is so fast, everywhere, makes all the big plays” Malkin said, referring to safety Troy Polamalu.

Malkin's eyes widened when discussing linebacker James Harrison.

“(I've) never seen anybody so tough,” Malkin said. “He hits so hard. He is big, plays means. I like to watch.”

The Penguins and Steelers partnered to bring the Winter Classic to Heinz Field on New Year's Day. Steelers president Art Rooney II attended that game, and Penguins president/CEO David Morehouse plans to return the show of support by taking his son to the Super Bowl on Sunday.

The Penguins play at Washington at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, and their travel arrangements call for a return to Pittsburgh in time to catch the second half — maybe the second quarter if the NHL game moves swiftly.

The Sabres leave Monday for games at Tampa Bay and Florida. That marks their fathers' trip, which gives defenseman and Seneca Valley product Mike Weber a chance to watch the Super Bowl with his dad Sunday night.

“Whether it's at a local pub or my own home, we'll definitely be watching,” he said. “I'm probably less nervous than my dad because the Steelers have so many guys that have won the Super Bowl compared to the Packers.”

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma predicted a 27-24 Steelers victory over the Packers early this week.

Yesterday morning he showed off his football expertise.

“Special teams is always a big factor for the Steelers' success,” he said. “It will be interesting to see what Green Bay does with (its) offense ... if (the Packers) spread it out and do what the Jets did in the second half (of the AFC Championship Game) and make it difficult on the Steelers.

“But it seems like in big games you need big plays, and the Steelers have got to come with a couple from their quarterback and defense to win this game.”

Two years ago the Steelers won the Super Bowl. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup five months later — a point not lost on Malkin, who said football has become his second favorite sport.

“They bring us good luck,” he said of the Steelers. “Let's do that again.”

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