Capitals coach knew Penguins' Crosby was special

| Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011

ARLINGTON, Va. — New Washington coach Dale Hunter knows all about Sidney Crosby.

During the 2004-05 hockey season, when the NHL was on strike, Hunter's London Knights won the Memorial Cup with a 4-0 victory in the final game over the Rimouski Oceanic, which was led by the 17-year-old Crosby.

Although Crosby did lead the tournament in scoring with 11 points in five games — that happens to be his precise total so far this season — he was blanked in the tournament-deciding game by a London team that boasted current Anaheim star Corey Perry, among many other future NHL players.

"I've got to watch some tape on that," Hunter said with a laugh.

Hunter professed great admiration for Crosby and knew seven years ago that he would become a great player. Most of Hunter's best players that season were 19, and even though they were two years older than Crosby, containing him wasn't easy.

"He was special then," Hunter said. "We had a checking line against him. He still scored in quite a few games. But we limited him. He was so strong then. He was dominant. You knew right away he was special."

> > Forbes Magazine released its annual ranking of NHL franchise values Wednesday, and once again, the Penguins rank as the league's ninth most valuable franchise. According the magazine, the Penguins are worth around $264 million, which makes them the NHL's sixth most valuable American franchise behind the New York Rangers, Boston, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia. Toronto was ranked the league's most valuable franchise at $521 million.

> > Washington introduced Jim Johnson as an assistant coach on Hunter's staff Tuesday. Johnson, a former defenseman, played with the Penguins from 1985-90 and played against the Penguins in the 1991 Stanley Cup Final.

> > The Penguins again will play without defensemen Zbynek Michalek and Kris Letang when they face the Capitals in Washington on Thursday night. There is concern that Michalek and Letang have concussions, though neither player has been diagnosed with the condition. Michalek was hit in the head late in Saturday's game against Montreal. Although he did pass an initial baseline test, Michalek is dealing with headaches. Letang was hit in the head by Montreal's Max Pacioretty, who has since been suspended for three games. The star defenseman felt fine for two days following the hit but started to sustain symptoms of a possible concussion Monday in New York. Because he is currently battling a virus, Letang is ineligible to take the baseline test. Both have returned home. It is unknown whether either will be available to play Saturday against the Hurricanes.

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