Moving forward: Therrien shuffles lines hoping to make a difference in Game 2

No fretting over 4-0 loss and criticizing his players

DETROIT -- Michel Therrien could have done something to try to make a statement.

Instead, he did something to try to make a difference.

Rather than criticizing his players for a largely lackluster performance in a 4-0 loss to Detroit in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final Saturday night, the Penguins' coach opted to give a number of them new roles yesterday, reconfiguring all of their forward lines.

The new combinations are Ryan Malone-Sidney Crosby-Marian Hossa, Max Talbot-Evgeni Malkin-Petr Sykora, Pascal Dupuis-Jordan Staal-Tyler Kennedy and Gary Roberts-Adam Hall-Jarkko Ruutu.

"Every team has to make adjustments through the course of the playoffs," Therrien said. "And we believe those adjustments are going to help us to get success."

It won't take long for him to learn if his moves will pay off. The Penguins and Red Wings will meet in Game 2 of the final at 8:08 tonight at Joe Louis Arena.

On some teams, a major overhaul of their lines one game into a series might be construed as panic by the coach. For the Penguins, it's pretty much business as usual.

"We've done it a lot all season," Crosby said. "So I don't think it's a huge deal."

The Game 1 loss marked the first time in these playoffs the Penguins have trailed in a series. They won the first three games in each of the previous three rounds and, while that didn't do much to inject suspense to the playoffs, it sure was easy on their blood pressure.

But even though defenseman Rob Scuderi acknowledged the obvious when he said "it's definitely a more comfortable feeling" to be up by 3-0 in a series instead of down by 1-0, he was adamant that the Penguins don't feel overmatched by the Red Wings simply on the basis of how Game 1 played out.

"If we'd played our best game and they'd still dominated us like that, at times, maybe I would say so," Scuderi said. "There's more we can do to be successful. We're not worried and we're not going to panic at all."

The Penguins also can take some comfort in knowing they have won Game 2 in nine consecutive series and 11 of the past 12. Now, a victory against Montreal in the second game of Round 1 in 1998 probably isn't going to help the Penguins much in Game 2 against the Wings, but it can't hurt them, either.

Especially if they elevate their game to the level they insist they're capable of reaching.

"[Game 1] was a bad effort," Talbot said. "We played not really good. Give [Detroit] credit, but on our part, we're not proud of the way we played. If we bring our "A" game, it's going to be a different type of game."

It's hard to say which of Therrien's moves could have the greatest impact, but the most intriguing one was his decision to get Roberts back in uniform. Roberts, who has not played since Game 2 of the third round, bumped Georges Laraque out of the lineup.

Most of Roberts' absence was due to a mild case of pneumonia, and after a season rife with injuries and illness, he said his health "is as good as it's been all year."

Roberts' style -- forechecking hard, hitting harder -- dovetails perfectly with a tactical adjustment the Penguins plan to make for Game 2.

Detroit clogs the neutral zone so effectively that trying to carry or pass the puck through there is as futile as it is frustrating. So the idea will be to throw the puck behind the Red Wings' defensemen, then chase it down and get possession in the Detroit zone.

"When we played smart [Saturday] and got the puck deep and worked them down low, we got chances," Ruutu said.

More, certainly, than the Penguins did when they were turning over the puck between the blue lines, which fueled Detroit's outstanding transition game.

"We've definitely learned our lesson, because we found out what can happen," Scuderi said. "It was a tough way to learn, but at least we've seen what kind of damage they can cause if we don't get it deep."

Dupuis suggested that the Penguins "respect [Detroit] too much," and that might be true. It's easy to understand why they would hold Detroit in such high regard, however. The Red Wings are tireless and fearless, with great attention to detail and a team-wide willingness to sacrifice. They concede nothing, and take anything they are given. And then some.

"There's no doubt this is the best team [we've faced]," Therrien said. "That's why they're here."

Dave Molinari can be reached at . First Published May 26, 2008 4:00 AM


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