The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 24, 2008

Inside hockey’s superstitions

(Continued)

PITTSBURGH —

Just look at the players’ facial hair. Most Penguins don’t shave during a playoff run. One bushy beard after another can be seen lining the bench. A glance across the Detroit Red Wings bench will offer a similar view.

In the Penguins locker room, if someone unwittingly walks across the team logo on the carpet, that person probably will be chastised. It’s bad luck for a shoe to touch the logo.

There are routines involving the food players eat on game days, the suits coaches and management wear, the placement of sticks in the room and Evgeni Malkin’s zipping a puck off of the foot of Johnstown native Chris Stewart at the end of warmups.

Stewart, the Penguins head athletic trainer, is the last person off the ice after the warm-up skate. He does so to make sure no one needs unexpected treatment after a muscle pull or freak injury.

“I don’t know when that started with Geno (Malkin),” said Stewart, who is hit by a soft Malkin shot just outside the door leading to the Pens locker room.

At Mellon Arena, the lights are low as warm-ups conclude. Malkin usually is at the far end of the rink looking for Stewart. “He did it one game. He had a good game,” Stewart said. “I wasn’t out there for warm-ups the next night and he got mad. From then on, we started doing it.

“I always make sure I’m the last guy off the ice so that no players are on the ice when I’m not out there. When he’s done shooting down there, I wait and he shoots the puck off my foot. We’ve got it down to a routine now. Whatever works for him works for me. If that’s what he wants, why not do it? I’m not going to screw with anybody’s ritual. If I can help him play better, so be it.”

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