RALEIGH, N.C. -- Penguins winger Miroslav Satan received a lot of praise from inside and outside the locker room for the way he stepped out of character and traded punches with Carolina's Patrick Eavesin the waning minutes of Game 2 in the Eastern Conference final Thursday.
That's understandable given that Satan has been in the NHL since 1995 and, from most indications, had been in just one other fight.
It is worth noting, though, that the guy he fought is 4 inches shorter and a pound lighter than Satan, who checks in at 6 feet 3, 191 pounds.
And, like Satan, he does not make a habit of dropping the gloves. Eaves said yesterday, a few hours before Game 3 at the RBC Center, he has been in "two or three" since entering the league in the 2005-06 season.
"I don't look at that as part of my game at all," Eaves said. "It just so happened that we got tangled up there at the end, and tempers were flaring."
Many onlookers -- teammates among them -- were caught off-guard by the vigor with which Satan threw punches, but Eaves wasn't.
"He didn't surprise me at all," he said. "At some point in everyone's life, they've been in some kind of confrontation."
The Penguins took a 66-61 edge on faceoffs against Carolina into Game 3, which isn't bad considering that the Hurricanes finished in the top quarter of the league in the regular season.
"We've been pretty solid," Jordan Staal said. "They're a good faceoff group."
Their success rate figures to dip before they return home, however, because home teams have a built-in advantage on draws. The visiting player must be the first to get his stick and skates in the proper positions for a draw, which gives an edge for his opponent.
"It's a lot about timing," Staal said. "When you're at home, you can time it a lot better. When you're forced to [put your stick] down first, it's a little tougher to time it right."
Coach Dan Bylsma agreed, but said the Penguins' performance on faceoffs reflects the time and effort assistant coach Tom Fitzgerald has invested in that facet of the game.
"Tom Fitzgerald has done a great job of preparing the guys, both in terms of giving them options and different things to do in the circle and also an awareness of what the guys we're going against are doing," he said.
"When you're unpredictable in the faceoff circle, in terms of running plays and doing different things, it gives the other team more things to think about."
Regardless of the outcome or duration of the Penguins-Hurricanes series, the Stanley Cup final will begin Friday, June 5 in the home of the Western champion, Chicago or Detroit.
If both conference title rounds had ended in sweeps, the Cup final would have begun Thursday, but Chicago's 4-3 overtime victory against the Red Wings Friday night snuffed that possibility because it assured that the West series would go at least five games.
Barring a late adjustment by the league office, Game 2 would be played Saturday, June 6 in the Western city before the series shifts to the East, at which point games would be played on an every-other-day basis.
Evgeni Malkin had a hat trick in Game 2 and seemed to elevate his game after a run-in with Carolina forward Chad LaRose.
That, teammate Hal Gill suggested, likely wasn't a coincidence.
"He's an electrifying player all the time," Gill said. "Sometimes, he turns it up a notch.
"In the playoffs, everyone has an extra gear. Then, there are special players who can turn it up another gear after that. It's the zone. If you could find a way to bottle it, you would."
Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .