Posted October 12, 2011 on AP on Fox

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 15: Matt Cooke #24 of the Pittsburgh Penguins congratulates Sidney Crosby #87 on his power play goal at 3:20 of the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Mellon Arena on December 15, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
With three of the game's brightest stars, a captivating seven-game playoff series, a date in the Winter Classic and even its own HBO reality series, the rivalry between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins has become one of the NHL's best. Without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, it also became rather one-sided. Pittsburgh still won't have Crosby but is hopeful to have Malkin back after a two-game absence Thursday night against Alex Ovechkin and the visiting Capitals, who have won three straight in the series - including two shutouts with the Penguins' stars sidelined. A hit to Crosby's head in the teams' New Year's Day showdown from then-Washington center Dave Steckel was the first in successive games that contributed to a concussion, which has kept Pittsburgh's captain out since Jan. 5. Malkin, who scored his team's lone goal in the 3-1 loss at Heinz Field, tore his ACL on Feb. 4, two days before the Penguins (3-0-1) and Capitals (2-0-0) met again in the nation's ca...
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