DETROIT -- The battle between Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg figures to be one of the epic confrontations during the Stanley Cup final this year.
"If you're a hockey purist and you like superstars who bring it, that's a nice matchup," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said a few hours before Game 2 at Joe Louis Arena last night.
That's not all he said, however, for Babcock didn't seem to be particularly impressed by the check Crosby threw to knock down Zetterberg in the neutral zone midway through the first period of the Red Wings' 3-1 victory in the series opener Saturday night.
"I thought he went headhunting, right off the hop," Babcock said yesterday.
Crosby wasn't penalized for the hit and, when informed of Babcock's characterization of it yesterday, declined to counter-attack.
"I'm not going to get involved in his games," Crosby said. "He can say whatever he wants. I don't think I've been known as a headhunter throughout my career. He's the first one ever to say that."
Crosby wasn't nearly as reserved after Game 1, when asked about a run-in with Detroit's Kirk Maltby at the final buzzer that ended with him slashing Maltby.
"He was giving guys lip service and things like that," Crosby said. "And you know, I two-handed him on top of the foot there as we were skating by. He felt like it was necessary to keep talking after the game, and I thought I'd whack him, and that was it."
After watching the Penguins lose 39 of 55 faceoffs in Game 1, coach Dan Bylsma made it clear that he was looking for his team to control more than 29 percent of its draws last night.
That didn't necessarily mean he expected his centers to do that single-handedly. In fact, Bylsma made a point of saying his team must do a better job with "50-50 pucks," the ones that are up for grabs when neither team wins a faceoff cleanly.
"A lot of the draws that were won [by Detroit] were the wingers coming in there and the [defensemen] coming in," Bylsma said.
Jordan Staal seconded that assessment -- "Wingers can always help out," he said.
"There are always a lot of battles around the draws that could go either way" -- but there was no need for anyone to reinforce Bylsma's message that the Penguins had to be more effective on draws because the Game 1 won-lost numbers did that quite effectively: Crosby, 6-14; Staal, 6-13; Evgeni Malkin, 4-5; Max Talbot, 0-4; Craig Adams, 0-2; and Tyler Kennedy, 0-1.
Disappointed as the Penguins were by their loss in Game 1, they seemed to be over it by the time they reported to Joe Louis Arena for an optional morning skate yesterday.
A handful of regulars went on the ice, but most rode stationary bikes or kicked around a soccer ball in a corridor outside the dressing room. Or, in the case of defenseman Kris Letang, stickhandled a tennis ball through the locker room.
There certainly weren't many signs of serious stress, despite the stakes in Game 2.
"It's business as usual, and that would be a usual locker room for us," Bylsma said.
"I'm not reading too much into it. If you would see something different than what we normally are, then I would read into it.
"But that's what guys would normally be like on a day like that."
Rob Scuderi has raised his profile -- and his earning power -- dramatically with his defensive work this spring and could cash in big when he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1.
He still does not seem to be very well-known in Detroit, however, because when he is mentioned over the public-address system at Joe Louis Arena, his surname is pronounced "SKOO-dur-ee."
The correct pronunciation: Skoo-DAIR-ee.
Bylsma is trying to become the 14th coach to win a Cup in his first year behind the bench. Al MacNeil, who replaced Claude Ruel in Montreal during the 1970-71 season, is the only one to win a championship when he didn't start the season as coach. ... The series will shift to Mellon Arena, where the Penguins were 1-2 against Detroit during the 2008 Cup final, for Game 3 tomorrow and Game 4 Thursday.
Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .