DETROIT -- The Penguins will face their greatest challenge of the season when they take on Detroit in the Stanley Cup final, which begins tonight at 8:08 at Joe Louis Arena.
Somewhat surprisingly, that isn't necessarily the case for Frank Buonomo, who is the Penguins' director of team services and handles all aspects of their travel.
While the demands on players and other team personnel increase during the playoffs -- the Penguins, for example, moved up practice yesterday at Mellon Arena by an hour so they could arrive here in time for a mid-afternoon media availability session -- Buonomo said his job isn't significantly more demanding than it was during the regular season or previous playoff rounds.
Not even when he had to orchestrate arrangements to stay in a city where the Penguins haven't played since the 2005-06 season, a few days before Michel Therrien replaced Eddie Olczyk as coach.
"It really doesn't [make the job more difficult]," Buonomo said. "The hotels do a great job, and the NHL does a great job during the final, so I wouldn't consider it any tougher."
He added that the team, with an assist from the NHL, will have more security than usual in place while the Penguins are here, and does have one issue with which fans probably can relate: Coming up with tickets.
During the playoffs, teams receive 100 complimentary tickets (twice the regular-season number) for road games, and the Penguins and Red Wings have agreed to provide each other with 100 more that can be purchased.
Whether the Penguins will have enough to fill all of the players' requests isn't clear, and the situation might not improve much when the series shifts to Mellon Arena for Game 3 Wednesday because the demand will increase while the supply might not.
"We're still figuring out [how many tickets will be needed]," he said. "Everyone's having their families in. We will need more."
Roberts not due to play
Left winger Gary Roberts, who turned 42 yesterday, missed the final three games of the Eastern Conference final because of a mild case of pneumonia, but has medical clearance to resume playing.
Nonetheless, Roberts, who again practiced on a line with Kris Beech and Jeff Taffe, is scheduled to be a healthy scratch for Game 1. Although coach Michel Therrien said a final decision won't be made until today, he acknowledged being reluctant to alter a winning combination of players.
"It's tough to change the lineup." Therrien said. "Those are tough decisions to make. ... Coaches have a tendency to not change when things are going well."
Because the Penguins and Red Wings haven't played since the early days of the 2006-07 season, when Detroit took a 2-0 victory out of Mellon Arena by virtue of an almost flawless performance, there isn't much natural animosity between the teams, the way there was during the Penguins' previous series against Ottawa, the New York Rangers and Philadelphia.
Odds are, however, that it won't take long for that to change, given what's at stake in this series.
"I'm sure we're going to get to that because you're battling for a Stanley Cup," center Max Talbot said. "You're battling for the same thing, and it's going to be really, really intense out there, so, obviously, you're going to create a small rivalry in a short period of time."
There will, almost certainly, be talk of a "hatred" that develops between the Penguins and Red Wings in coming days. The most physically imposing member of either team -- Penguins right winger Georges Laraque, considered by many to be hockey's top enforcer -- recoils from such suggestions.
"I don't know how other guys approach the game, but I don't hate anyone," he said. "Maybe some guys need to work up a hatred to play, to have an edge or whatever, but this is a game, so how could you hate?
"To win the Cup is so much better. What more emotion do you need when you're this close?"
By mid-afternoon yesterday, the Penguins had sold more than 5,000 tickets to fans who will watch Game 1 at Mellon Arena. ... Detroit is the most recent team to win the Stanley Cup and Presidents' Trophy in the same season, having done it in 2002.