The Washington Times - March 6, 2008, 04:07PM

\ So the Caps will host the Penguins on Sunday in what might be the most anticipated NHL game (indoors, of course) of the entire season. The Stanley Cup rematch was big, and Pittsburgh‘s first post-lockout trek to the Northwest was a big deal, but it is hard to argue against the subplots and intrigue that this game will offer. \


\ Fans in this area often like to point out there is too much focus on one Sidney Crosby, and in this instance, those people would be right. Here is the subject line of the email from NBC to media members trying to promote the game: “CROSBY VS. OVECHKIN AS CAPITALS HOST PENGUINS IN SUNDAY NHL GAME OF THE WEEK ON NBC.”\

\ Look, everyone knows these two guys are the franchise for the league, but their “rivalry” is not the story this weekend. Yes, it will be Crosby’s return to network television after he has been out with an ankle injury, but that is only one of the many juicy plot lines, and it is not really the biggest one.\

\ The last time these two teams met, the Penguins were playing their second game without Crosby. Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin put on an epic show of skill with a made for YouTube showdown to boot. Since that game, the two precocious Russians have been the two best offensive players in the league by a wide margin. They could be two of the three finalists for league MVP honors, and one of them will become, barring injury, the first Russian to win the Art Ross Trophy.\

\ Wait, there’s more? How about they went 1-2 in the same draft, were roommates at the last Olympics (and should anchor the 2010 Russian entry) and their feelings for each other are, ahem, lukewarm at best. This will be the first time they face each other in the national spotlight with the race for the scoring title on. One team is fighting for top spot in the conference and the other is fighting for a spot in the postseason.\

\ Ovechkin-Malkin has all of the intrigue the NHL wishes Ovechkin v. Crosby could have. But Malkin’s English is somewhere between barely existent and suspect, and the league has a fine line to toe when it comes to promoting players from across the pond while not forgetting the hometown heroes of TV viewers on this continent.\

\ So yes, Sid’s back and the league is better off for it. And I am sure “Doc” Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Pierre McGuire and the rest of the NBC gang will spend plenty of time talking about all of the immensely talented young players on display at the Phone Booth, and not just Nos. 8 and 87.\

\ But at least for one day, the spotlight should shine on Ovechkin’s “other rivalry” when the Penguins are in town. It might just be the best one in the league.\

\ Photo by Getty Images\

\ — Corey Masisak