While the NHL season does not get underway for another two months, one of the hottest rivalries has already begun to heat up.
Pittsburgh Penguins forward Max Talbot began a war of words with Washington Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin on Tuesday while Talbot was promoting the upcoming 2011 NHL Winter Classic between the Pens and Caps at Heinz Field on New Year's Day.
While doing a promotional interview on Pittsburgh Radio Station 105.9 The X, Talbot said that Ovechkin was a "real (expletive deleted)" and continued to stir the pot with more statements of how much he dislikes the two-time Hart Trophy winner.
"I just hate the guy," Talbot told The X on Tuesday. "I can't lie. Sorry. Even more so for a guy like Ovechkin. Like, seriously, okay...yeah. I don't like him."
As the radio hosts continued to egg him, Talbot admitted that he immediately disliked Ovechkin the first time he met him.
"The first time I met him, actually, when I met him off the ice," Talbot told The X. "You hear a lot of stories about a guy, but sometimes they're not true. You hear of guys who are not good guys, and you're like, 'Yeah, okay, I'll give the guy a shot.' The first time I met him, let's say he didn't give the best impression to me, so better reason to hate him even more."
Talbot also stated that he continued his hatred for the Russian sniper during a subsequent encounter.
"I was actually at the NHL Awards last summer with (Evgeni) Malkin, and we brought the Stanley Cup over there after the season," Talbot told The X. "Malkin knew Ovechkin, and introduced me to him, and the first impression wasn't great. I'm not really gonna say what happened, but I'm like, 'Ok, this guy is a real (expletive deleted).' "
While Ovechkin has yet to respond, this is just the latest chapter in the immensely entertaining rivalry between two of the best teams in the NHL's Eastern Conference.
The rivalry truly blossomed during the 2009 playoffs when the Penguins eliminated the Capitals in a thrilling seven game series en route to the Stanley Cup. It then took an interesting turn last season when Capitals star forward Alex Semin claimed that Penguins' captain Sidney Crosby was "nothing special" and said that the Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane was a much more interesting player. Both teams have taken the opportunity to attack the other side in the press on numerous occasions.
Regardless of how Ovechkin reacts to the news, it should be a very interesting encounter on December 23rd in Washington when the two teams face each other for the first time this season. To make it even more interesting they will meet just one week later with a national audience watching on New Years Day for the 2011 NHL Winter Classic.
Let the games begin.