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Crosby won't respond to Vigneault's charge NHL favors him

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Does Sidney Crosby gets treated differently by the NHL? While the perception is commonly held, the evidence seemingly suggests otherwise.Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images

Does Sidney Crosby gets treated differently by the NHL? While the perception is commonly held, the evidence seemingly suggests otherwise.

PITTSBURGH — On the eve of “Rangers-Penguins 2016: Episode I,” hockey’s hottest player, Sidney Crosby, saw no benefit to addressing Alain Vigneault’s suggestion that the NHL favors the Pens’ captain when disciplining players for on-ice offenses.

“I guess he can say whatever he wants,” Crosby, 28, said after Tuesday morning’s practice at CONSOL Energy Center. “But, no, I don’t have any comment on that.”

Vigneault invoked Crosby’s name during a Monday morning rant against the league for not suspending Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds after a sucker-punch to the head of Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh on Saturday. “I wonder if that’s Crosby what happens, or what the consequence is?” said Vigneault, not the first person to take such a shot at Crosby and certainly not the last, either.

Crosby was too savvy to be baited into a war of words at his locker, but if Wednesday night’s showdown here in the Steel City is anything like Saturday’s heated Rangers 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers in Philly, Crosby and Vigneault should have plenty of blood-boiling opportunities to exchange pleasantries on ice level.

Crosby could use that opportunity to clarify a little-known fact: The NHL has suspended only one player ever for an infraction on Crosby during his 778-game career including playoffs. That distinction belongs to Columbus Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky, the former Ranger and Crosby nemesis who was docked one game for a cross-check to the back of Crosby’s neck on Nov. 27 of this season.

If Crosby is trash-talking, though, he should avoid admitting what one source told the Daily News recently: That the 2013-14 Penguins were not worried at all about facing the Rangers in that year’s playoffs, only about running into the Boston Bruins, until a 3-1 second-round series lead evaporated to Vigneault’s eventual Eastern Conference championship Rangers squad.

That admission could fire up the Blueshirts on Wednesday, but honestly, it’s not like these Metropolitan Division rivals need any extra motivation now.

The second-place Rangers (30-18-5, 65 points) have won three straight and seven of their last 10, paced by Pittsburgh area product J.T. Miller’s nine goals in 10 games. They beat the Devils, 2-1, on Monday without McDonagh (concussion) and Rick Nash (left leg bone bruise) and will play without them again on Wednesday.

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The Penguins (27-18-7, 61 points) have won six of their last seven behind Crosby, the reigning NHL First Star of the Week, to challenge the Islanders in a daily see-saw for third place. Evgeni Malkin (lower-body injury) is out, but Crosby has a goal in seven straight games, including 10 goals total, and an 11-game point streak with 22 points in that streak. Ex-Ranger Carl Hagelin, acquired from Anaheim in January, has added speed.

So don’t think for a second that ex-Rangers assistant coach Mike Sullivan, now head coach of the Penguins, doesn’t also have his sights on catching the Blueshirts. All four of their head-to-head matchups remain ahead of them: Wednesday night and March 3 here in Western Pa., and March 13 and 27 at the Garden.

Alain Vigneault is unhappy with the punishment given to Flyers' Wayne Simmonds after his sucker punch on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News

Alain Vigneault is unhappy with the punishment given to Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds after his sucker punch on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

PITTSBURGH — On the eve of “Rangers-Penguins 2016: Episode I,” hockey’s hottest player, Sidney Crosby, saw no benefit to addressing Alain Vigneault’s suggestion that the NHL favors the Pens captain when disciplining players for on-ice offenses.

“I guess he can say whatever he wants,” Crosby, 28, said after Tuesday morning’s practice at Consol Energy Center. “But, no, I don’t have any comment on that.”

Vigneault invoked Crosby’s name during a Monday morning rant against the league for not suspending Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds after a sucker-punch to the head of Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh on Saturday. “I wonder if that’s Crosby what happens, or what the consequence is?” said Vigneault, not the first person to take such a shot at Crosby and certainly not the last, either.

Crosby was too savvy to be baited into a war of words at his locker, but if Wednesday night’s showdown here in the Steel City is anything like Saturday’s heated Rangers 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers in Philly, Crosby and Vigneault should have plenty of blood-boiling opportunities to exchange pleasantries on ice level.

Crosby could use that opportunity to clarify a little-known fact: The NHL has suspended only one player for an infraction on Crosby during his 778-game career, including playoffs. That distinction belongs to Columbus Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky, the former Ranger and Crosby nemesis who was docked one game for a cross-check to the back of Crosby’s neck on Nov. 27 of this season.

If Crosby is trash talking, though, he should avoid admitting what one source told the Daily News recently: That the 2013-14 Penguins were not worried at all about facing the Rangers in that year’s playoffs, only about running into the Boston Bruins, until a 3-1 second-round series lead evaporated to Vigneault’s eventual Eastern Conference champion Rangers squad.

That admission could fire up the Blueshirts on Wednesday, but honestly, it’s not like these Metropolitan Division rivals need any extra motivation now.

The second-place Rangers (30-18-5, 65 points) have won three straight and seven of their last 10, paced by Pittsburgh area product J.T. Miller’s nine goals in 10 games. They beat the Devils, 2-1, on Monday without McDonagh (concussion) and Rick Nash (left leg bone bruise) and will play without them again on Wednesday.

The Penguins (27-18-7, 61 points) have won six of their last seven behind Crosby, the reigning NHL First Star of the Week, to challenge the Islanders in a daily see-saw for third place. Evgeni Malkin (lower-body injury) is out, but Crosby has a goal in seven straight games, including 10 goals total, and an 11-game point streak with 22 points in that streak. Ex-Ranger Carl Hagelin, acquired from Anaheim in January, has added speed.

So don’t think for a second that ex-Rangers assistant coach Mike Sullivan, now head coach of the Penguins, doesn’t also have his sights on catching the Blueshirts. All four of their head-to-head matchups remain ahead of them: Wednesday night and March 3 here, and March 13 and 27 at the Garden.

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