You could say that the Detroit Red Wings have a sixth sense when it comes to closing out playoff series on the road.
The Wings take the Honda Center ice Tuesday for Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal with the Anaheim Ducks holding a 3-2 edge and poised to eliminate the Ducks.
It’s a position they’ve found themselves in many times before and generally, they’ve gotten the job done. Since losing to Anaheim in the 2007 Western Conference Final, Detroit has won five successive playoff series - all on the road - including last spring’s Stanley Cup Final win in Game 6 at Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena. Detroit’s last eight Stanley Cup series wins have come on the road, which is a National Hockey League record.
“It gives you more confidence going into their building one more time,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
Overall, when the Wings have taken to the opposition’s ice for Game 6 with the chance to seal the deal, it’s been a death sentence for the other team. The Wings have won 13 straight series when leading 3-2 and playing Game 6 on the road.
The last time the Wings went on the road for Game 6 of a playoff series up 3-2 and didn’t win was in the 1965 semifinals, when they lost 4-0 at Chicago. The Blackhawks won the series, taking Game 7 by a 4-2 count at Detroit.
Detroit defenceman Brian Rafalski, who has missed the entire series with an upper-body injury, took Tuesday’s morning skate and remains a game-time decision for Game 6.
“If the coaches and I feel I can contribute in any way, then there's a good chance I'll play,” Rafalski said. “We'll see what happens.”
Defenceman Jonathan Ericsson, who skipped practice Monday after taking a shot in the right foot in Game 5, also took the ice Tuesday morning and indicated he was good to go.
“There’s swelling, but I’ve had medications and treatments since I was hit,” Ericsson said, indicating extra padding had been inserted into his skate for added protection.
If Rafalski plays, Derek Meech is out for Detroit. The Wings will go with the same lines that played the last game: Johan Franzen-Valtteri Filppula-Marian Hossa; Pavel Datsyuk-Henrik Zetterberg-Tomas Holmstrom; Dan Cleary-Jiri Hudler-Darren Helm; Kirk Maltby-Mikael Samuelsson-Justin Abdelkader.
Ducks off the pond
With their season on the line Tuesday, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle advised his team to spend the morning at home and skipped the traditional game-day skate.
“We’re just looking to change things up a bit,” Carlyle said.
Only injured players and scratches from the previous game showed up at the Honda Center Tuesday morning to take a few turns around the ice.
Forward Ryan Carter, who was excused from Monday’s practice for what the team termed, “a previously scheduled appointment,” will be in the lineup for Game 6, the Ducks confirmed.
Not there yet
The Wings won’t count their chickens before they hatch and they’re not about to count the Ducks out just yet, either.
“They’re a veteran team, too,” Babcock pointed out. “(Scott) Niedermayer’s one of their captains and he’s won four Cups. Both of us are very proven teams at this time of year. To me, there’s no edge in that department. It’s just a matter of who plays better.
“It should be a real battle. I think every game’s been an excellent game. I expect it to be the same, a hard-played game and we’re going to have to be at our best.”
Recognizing that many of the Ducks core was around when Anaheim won the 2007 Stanley Cup, the Wings understand that it eliminates their edge in terms of Cup-winning experience.
“They’re a championship-calibre team with guys who’ve been there before and know what it takes,” Cleary said. “You put that into perspective, how much they want to win, too and it makes for a great series.”
Detroit trailed 2-1 in the series the last time they took the ice in Anaheim, but Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom was certain his club was fine when he saw the poise they displayed to win Game 4 at the Honda Center after falling behind 1-0 on the first shift of the game.
“In Game 4, I thought we played really relaxed,” Lidstrom said. “We didn’t panic; we didn’t take a lot of chances to get goals. We were still sticking to our system, playing relaxed and getting our speed up, too.
“When you have that experience, it comes in handy.”
Samuelsson echoed his captain’s sentiments. “We really believe in ourselves,” Samuelsson said. When we lost the third game, it (made Game 4) a pressure game for us. It’s still a pressure game for us (Tuesday), but we seem to play good in those situations. It’s because we have confidence in ourselves.
“We know what it takes. I don’t think we put too much pressure on ourselves. It is pressure, but once again, we felt good about ourselves, even when we were down 2-1. We still felt like we had a good chance to win.”
Ever the optimist, Samuelsson even found a silver lining to falling behind as early as Detroit did in Game 4. “If you’re going to be down a goal, it might as well come pretty fast,” he said. “That way, you have more time to come back.”
Anaheim defenceman Chris Pronger is the man Detroit fans love to boo and if the Ducks can manage to beat the Wings in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal series Tuesday at the Honda Center, Pronger will move into a tie for the most career Stanley Cup games played against the Detroit the moment he takes the ice for Game 7.
Pronger will play his 40th playoff game against the Wings in Game 6. This is his seventh playoff series against Detroit - two with Anaheim (2009, 2007), one with the Edmonton Oilers (2006) and three with the St. Louis Blues (2002, 1998, 1997, 1996). In all but the 1996 series, the winning team has advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.
Most playoff games against Red Wings (Player-Team-Games):
George Armstrong - Toronto - 41
Eric Nesterenko - Toronto/Chicago - 41
Bert Olmstead - Montreal/Toronto - 41
Turk Broda - Toronto - 40
Teeder Kennedy - Toronto - 40
Chris Pronger - St. Louis/Edmonton/Anaheim - 39*
Stan Mikita - Chicago - 36
Bobby Hull - Chicago - 35
Joe Klukay - Toronto/Boston - 34
Bernie Geoffrion - Montreal - 33
Rocket Richard - Montreal - 33
- Penguins' Talbot cements reputation as big-game player
- Saturday, June 13, 2009
- Red Wings too late in arriving in Game 7
- Saturday, June 13, 2009
- Penguins sticking to regular routines
- Friday, June 12, 2009
- Babcock low-key all the way for Game 7
- Friday, June 12, 2009
- Rafalski shares Game 7 Stanley Cup wisdom
- Thursday, June 11, 2009
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