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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pens hope lockout cohesion will mean on-ice success

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PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby's been down the road too many times during the NHL's seemingly interminable lockout to get too optimistic about the latest -- and perhaps last -- round of negotiations.

Yet the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows eventually his team will get back to work. If it's sometime later this month, the normal 82-game regular season would turn into a 48-game dash, one that would seem to favour clubs like the Penguins.

Pittsburgh did little to overhaul its roster during the off-season, believing the core that fell to Philadelphia in the opening round of last spring's playoffs remains strong enough to compete for a Stanley Cup.

Other than the addition of centre Brandon Sutter -- acquired in a draft day trade that sent Jordan Staal to Carolina -- the Penguins believe there will be little if any "getting to know you" time whenever the puck drops.

"We can look at that as a positive for sure," Crosby said. "Guys understand their roles and what they need to do and there's trust there. Maybe with some newer guys you have to develop that a little bit more but yeah I would say it can't hurt and it certainly helps a little bit to have that familiarity there."

While some Penguins, notably reigning MVP Evgeni Malkin, travelled overseas to cash a paycheque during the lockout, Crosby has been leading a handful of teammates onto the ice for drills four days a week.

"I think that that's definitely an advantage," defenceman Ben Lovejoy said. "I think we're going to find out (when the lockout ends) which teams took it seriously the last couple months (and) who decided to go on vacation."

Something there's been very little of in Pittsburgh. Crosby has basically lost two years of his prime while dealing with concussion-like symptoms and now a work stoppage.

-- AP

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 4, 2013 C2

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