DETROIT -- Jonathan Ericsson, who scored Detroit's first goal last night, did not seem to think it was a big deal that he was playing in the Stanley Cup final on back-to-back nights a few days after an appendectomy, but he understands that others do.
"Yeah, some people think it's crazy," the Detroit rookie defenseman said after the morning skate yesterday between Games 1 and 2 against the Penguins at Joe Louis Arena. "But you see what the doctors are doing, what kind of job they're doing. It's not that strange. I'm just happy I had the doctor I had for the surgery and the team doctors we have here."
Ericsson had the surgery Wednesday. He said having the area numbed before games helps.
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who had a lower-body injury, spent Wednesday night in the locker room with Ericsson while the team wrapped up the Western Conference final with a victory against Chicago.
"He was in here on the couch lying down pretty much the whole game," Lidstrom said. "I told him, 'Just rest. You don't have to sit up or do anything.' That's what he did the whole game.
"That morning he had surgery, so he didn't look too great. But he recovered real fast. I thought he looked better that first day, and then Friday. He's been getting better every day. Maybe being a young guy helps a lot, but it's amazing that he can come back that quick."
Ericsson played in 19 regular-season games for Detroit. He became a regular in the playoffs -- he has two goals, five points in 16 games -- because defenseman Andreas Lilja is out because of a concussion.
"He's got the long reach," Babcock said of Ericsson, who is 6 feet 4.
"He's got the ability to get his hands out and get you on his back and make that good pass to get you going with speed. He's a guy who is going to be, I think, an elite player in the league for a long time.
"Lilja's an important player on this team, and, with the injury to him before the playoffs, [Ericsson has] come in and basically saved us. We would have been in trouble without him."
Chris Chelios has played in just six games for Detroit this postseason and might not get into the final. That doesn't bother the ageless wonder.
"I've been able to contribute in some sort of way in six games because of injuries," the 47-year-old defenseman said. "Hopefully, that won't be the case for the final and we remain healthy, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world, the position I'm in right now.
"This is the best time of the year. I get just as nervous as I did back in '84 when I stepped on the ice against Boston for the first playoff round of my career."
"When you're young, you really don't think a lot," he said. "The strength I have is I really don't think a lot. I think that's kept me around probably longer than most."
Two players who have not been able to get past injuries for the final are forwards Pavel Datsyuk, an MVP finalist, and Kris Draper, a ferocious faceoff man.
Datsyuk missed his fifth game in a row with a foot injury, and Draper has been out three games because of a groin problem.
Coach Mike Babcock said the fact that Datsyuk has appeared limited in the few times he has skated and is walking with a limp does not necessarily mean it is serious or long-term, but has more to do with the extensive work he has done to try to get back into the lineup.
Mellon Arena is not the only hockey building where the condition of the ice is a concern after Memorial Day.
"The ice, in my opinion, is poor," Babcock said of Joe Louis Arena.
"It's hot and it's humid, so that affects the play."
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.