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After his "fight" with Brett McLean of the Florida Panthers yesterday, Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby claimed that he and McLean had agreed to drop gloves following the faceoff: "We were talking early in the first period ... I asked him to go, he said 'yes'. Usually yes means yes. I wouldn't have wasted 20 minutes in the box for that ... I guess he didn't take me serious."

McLean admitted that Crosby said "something" prior to the draw, but denied there was any mutual approval for a fight. After the Panthers' 6-5 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens today, George Richards of the Miami Herald got some specifics out of McLean regarding the Crosby fight:

Did you discuss fighting him? "We had not, at any point. It was as surprising to me as it was to you guys."

Did you ever see it coming? "No I didn't."

Was Sidney jawing at you earlier in the game? "Before the face-off, like I told you yesterday, he was saying something but I didn't really hear it. I didn't know what he was saying, didn't really pay attention to it."

Did you ever say yes to him as he said? "No, I mean, I don't know where that came from."

McLean probably wouldn't be this chatty if No. 87 in your Penguins program hadn't bloodied him in a fight.

On the other hand, Crosby's comments do deserve a rebuttal.

Crosby came off a tad disingenuous, didn't he: The biggest offensive star in hockey, with one previous NHL fight to his credit, arbitrarily decides to drop the gloves with a random foe? When the media's floating the notion that McLean duped the golden boy into a fight, McLean deserves his say.

In this morning's three stars, Ross McKeon's attempt at rationalizing Crosby's decision was a good one: that the Penguins miss the character guys -- like Gary Roberts and Ryan Malone and Adam Hall and the rest of the Lightning -- who would step up with some physical inspiration last season.

But in a stinker at home against the Florida Panthers, and with his team in a tailspin ... well, it's like David Bowie said to Bret from Flight of the Conchords: Sometimes you just have to do something absolutely outrageous when the time is right.

And on Sunday, Jan. 4, we're not talking about the Penguins' 3-7-0 streak or the fact that they're under .500 at home or their 0-for-24 power play rut --we're comparing Crosby's fighting style to Alex Semin's bongo playing.

Sometimes star players have to be a lightning rod. And if a team needs a kick in the ass, we'll take the captain dropping his gloves out of frustration over a players'-only meeting any day. Let's see how the Penguins respond.

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