lidstrom-nicklas-392-cp-080522

Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom practises Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. ((Jerry S. Mendoza/Associated Press))

Nicklas Lidstrom wanted to be an engineer. Now the much-decorated Detroit Red Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom wants to become the first European captain to hoist the Stanley Cup.

"I finished school in Sweden when I was 20 to become an engineer," he told reporters Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. "But I did not fulfill the course because I came here instead.

"If I stayed in Sweden and did more studying, I would have become an engineer. I like the decision I made."

Lidstrom's latest quest for hockey history begins Saturday as the Red Wings host the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final (CBC, 8 p.m. ET).

"It would mean a lot," he said. "But it's still secondary to being able to win the Cup again and getting another ring."

Lidstrom, 38, has won three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings — the last in 2002, when he was the first European awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

"Nick does not get the credit or recognition he deserves because he plays the game without being physical," said former Red Wings forward Mickey Redmond, now a colour commentator for FSN Detroit. "When you have a marvellous mind, you can keep yourself out of trouble and avoid getting hurt."

"To appreciate the subtleties of how talented and consistent he is, you have to watch him every day," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. "He's not about flashy. He's about substance."

Lidstrom is rewriting the record book in an equally subtle manner.  

First, he eclipsed a pair Steve Yzerman's franchise records by competing in the playoffs for a 16th straight season, and competing in his 197th playoff game.  

Then, he broke Jari Kurri's NHL record for European players with his 201st post-season appearance. 

"I will take Nick over anybody," Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall said.

'One of the greatest defencemen ever'

Lidstrom led all NHL defencemen with 70 points and a plus-40 rating in 76 games this season, and is favoured to win a sixth Norris Trophy as the league's top defenceman. 

"He is probably one of the greatest defencemen ever to play the game," said Sergei Gonchar of the Penguins, a talented European rearguard in his own right.

Lidstrom has a modest two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 16 playoff games this spring, but he boasts a plus-nine rating heading into the Cup final.  

"He has always been able to shut down the best player on a pretty regular basis," Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood said. "I am pretty confident Nick will be able to do a good job.

"He has played against [Mario] Lemieux and guys like [Wayne] Gretzky and [Brett] Hull. I think he looks forward to it.

"He is not going to come out and say it, though. He is not a loud guy."

"It is not what he says, but what he does," Babcock said. "The modelling of doing things right that he sets for the whole team is the best I have ever seen."

With files from the Associated Press