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Canadian Press
12/11/2006 9:46:52 AM


The blood pumps a little more quickly when Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin face each other in an NHL game.

Crosby, the 19-year-old star centre of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Ovechkin, the 21-year-old Russian scoring terror of the Washington Capitals, became the face of the new post-lockout NHL with dazzling rookie seasons in 2005-06.

They clash tonight in the first of four meetings this season between the Eastern Conference teams. The game can be seen live on NHL Network at 7pm et/4pm pt.

Both admitted they will have no trouble getting up for the face-to-face confrontation.

"It's always a little more motivating from my side," Crosby said last week as they took part together in a conference call with the media.

"It's built up so much, you want to respond and have a good game, At the end of the night, the win is the most important thing but there's no doubt there is more attention and more emotion when we play each other."

"Sidney's right," added Ovechkin. "Sidney and me want to score some goals and get some points, but (mostly) we want to win the game."

In four meetings between the clubs last season, Ovechkin had three goals and three assists and was plus-2, while Crosby had three goals and six assists and was plus-3.

Ovechkin had a slightly better year overall and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie. The Russian finished third in league scoring with 52 goals and 54 assists, while Crosby was sixth with 39 goals and 63 assists. Both played 81 games.

Capitals coach Glen Hanlon would no doubt prefer to see his star winger stick to scoring goals. Ovechkin leads his team with 18 goals and 17 assists, while Crosby leads the Penguins with 13 goals and 26 assists.

"I try to play more defensively," said Ovechkin, adding that Hanlon told him "I don't care about how (you) play offensively, I care about how (you) play defensively.

"So I know I play better defensively now."

Crosby's big adjustment from his rookie year was having another young Russian star, Evgeni Malkin, joining the Penguins this season.

The two have already begun to spread fear around the league with their scoring feats and are only likely to score more when they get to know each other better.

"It's great to be able to play with someone who is that creative and has that much fun on the ice," said Crosby. "I'm improving just playing with him.

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No doubt the NHL wants to hype this up. Only 2 other games tonight, and this one definitely takes center stage.
 
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