Detroit coach Mike Babcock joked that veteran center Kris Draper did some creative and effective campaigning to get into the lineup for Games 2 and 3 of the Stanley Cup final. To no avail. Although Babcock appreciated the effort.
Last night, Draper got his wish and returned to the lineup for Game 4. He missed the first three games of the Stanley Cup final with a groin injury. He was healthy enough to play after Game 1, but Babcock was reluctant to alter a winning lineup.
"You start back to back in Detroit and you go up, 2-0. I absolutely understand the situation. The guys were playing great," Draper said. "This is not the time to be selfish."
After the Red Wings dropped Game 3, Babcock decided it was time to get his top faceoff man and proven penalty-killer back in.
"It's postseason. It's been tough having a couple injuries and not being able to go," said Draper, who missed 10 games earlier this postseason because of an upper-body injury.
Draper, 38, who passed Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman last night for the second-most playoff games in Detroit history (197), had won 66.7 percent of his faceoffs in his limited time in the playoffs. During the regular season, he was second in the NHL with a winning percent of 60.3.
"A lot of experience helps," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said of Draper. "He's been doing it for a long time. It's something that he's really focused on. It's not any different than a guy with a good shot -- they work on that year after year and they get good at it."
Crosby was clicking at a strong 53.8 percent on draws going into last night.
Draper hopes that, in particular, his work on faceoffs can help the Red Wings when they are short-handed. Their penalty killing has been subpar, ranked 14th among 16 playoff teams at 71.4 percent before last night, and the Penguins had scored on three of their first six power plays.
"That's been a big part of my career and a big part of my role with this hockey club," Draper said. "I know I'm going to get some faceoff situations on the [penalty kill]. For me, I put a lot of importance on and a lot of pressure on myself to go out and win as many faceoffs as I can."
Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk remained on the ice long after his teammates finished their morning skate. That usually would be an indication he wasn't playing, but Detroit did not rule him out until after the pregame warmup.
Datsyuk, one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, was hoping to return but missed his seventh consecutive game because of a foot injury. Babcock left the decision on whether Datsyuk was ready to the player and the team's medical staff.
With Draper back, the only other lineup change was rookie center Justin Abdelkader being scratched.
Babcock was asked how he is faring.
"Feel great, actually, you know. Really good," he said. "I'm missing my son's graduation [yesterday]. I missed my daughter's birthday on Tuesday. So probably not running for father of the year, but other than that, everything's good."