The Pittsburgh Penguins, in the post-grad portion of their Stanley Cup education, say that this time they’ll be physically and mentally ready for the Detroit Red Wings when their championship rematch begins Saturday.
As for the readiness of the battered Wings, that will be determined in the trainer’s room in the hours leading up to the first puck drop.
Detroit general manager Ken Holland provided a body count Thursday.
He said he expects six-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom to be in the lineup after he missed the last two games with a lower body injury, but after that, things get iffy.
Pavel Datsyuk, who may have a broken foot, also skated Thursday which was a good sign after he missed the last three games. Jonathan Ericsson did not take to the ice after an emergency appendectomy Wednesday.
Speedy checking forward Kris Draper, who has a groin strain, is not likely to be in the lineup for Game 1, but might return sometime in the series. Andreas Lilja, who has a concussion, and Tomas Kopecky, who has a broken orbital bone, could be out for the duration.
“We’ve got a short break, but hopefully we can manage to get some guys healthy, get guys back,” said Wings’ goaltender Chris Osgood. “Last year was spread out quite a bit between games. We’ll have to deal with it. We’ve dealt with a lot of things in the playoffs, like you always do. We’ll be ready.”
The remarkably healthy and younger Penguins — who finished off a sweep of Carolina Tuesday — sound like they’ve been ready for this rematch since they watched Lidstrom hoist the Cup after Game 6 at Pittsburgh last spring.
The Penguins didn’t score a goal in the first two games of last year’s final, losing 4-0 and 3-0, and defenceman Rob Scuderi recalls the start of that final as “kind of a shell shock.”
“We were watching too much,” captain Sidney Crosby recounted yesterday. “It took us a couple of games last year to get our feet under us. By that time we were down 2-0. It was too late. We’ll be ready from the start this time.”
Crosby and sidekick Evgeni Malkin have been dominant so far in the post-season and are tied for the lead among playoff scorers with 28 points each. They have been spectacular and now clearly understand that even with superior talent, they have to take their game up another notch each playoff round.
“Crosby and Malkin are running away the scoring lead in the playoffs and if we let them continue to run wild, it will be hard for us to win the series,” said Holland. “You can’t stop players that good, but we can’t let them do what they did against Carolina.”
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