Back-to-back Cup series turn Red Wings into rivals
Sidney Crosby hoists the Stanley Cup after defeating the Red Wings in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena in June 2009.
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Detroit is not the Penguins' most bitter rival.
Probably never will be, at least as long as Philadelphia and Washington are in the NHL.
But the Red Wings, who will visit Consol Energy Center at 7:08 p.m. today, are not just another Western Conference opponent, either.
There is too much history -- all of it recent -- between the clubs for the Penguins to think of them that way.
"Any team that beats you in the [Stanley Cup] final, you're going to have a rivalry with them, probably forever," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said Monday. "Because you're still probably bitter about losing to them."
If he's correct, both sides have something to make them seethe, because Detroit won a Cup at Mellon Arena in 2008, and the Penguins claimed one 12 months later at Joe Louis Arena.
- Matchup: Detroit Red Wings at Penguins, 7:08 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.
- TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Joey MacDonald for Red Wings.
- Penguins: Lost past two home games. ... LW Matt Cooke is tied for NHL lead with five short-handed points. ... Are 16-7-4 when recording 30 or more shots on goal.
- Red Wings: Own one of NHL's best road records, 14-6-2. ... D Brian Rafalski needs two points for 500 in NHL. ... Have gone 7-1-2 in games tied at second intermission.
- Hidden stat: Red Wings are 19-1-4 when getting first goal of game.
Those two series made memories and left scars, all of which will last for a long time.
"I don't think there's a better place for a rivalry to get built up than in the playoffs," said forward Max Talbot, who scored the Penguins' Cup-winning goal.
While much can happen between now and late spring, a rubber match hardly is out of the question. Before Monday night's games, the Red Wings were third in the overall standings, the Penguins fourth.
"As much of a rivalry as it is," Penguins left winger Matt Cooke said, "it's also a measuring stick."
Precisely how much either team can, or should, take out of tonight's game is hard to say.
While the Red Wings will dress a pretty formidable group, headlined by the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg, they also will leave the makings of a pretty fair squad at home because of injuries.
Detroit will be missing forwards Pavel Datsyuk (hand), Dan Cleary (ankle), Tomas Holmstrom (hand) and Mike Modano (wrist), goalies Chris Osgood (sports hernia) and Jimmy Howard (knee) and defenseman Brad Stuart (jaw).
The Penguins, meanwhile, will be without center Sidney Crosby, the NHL's leading scorer, for the sixth consecutive game because of a concussion.
"I don't think anyone's going to complain when [Datsyuk] is out of the lineup," Orpik said. "And they'd probably say the same about Sid."
Although injuries have forced Detroit to graft the likes of Jan Mursak, Tomas Tatar and Thomas McCollum onto its roster, the Red Wings have earned 18 of a possible 26 points since Dec. 22, when Datsyuk broke his hand.
That's part of the reason the Penguins don't feel the Red Wings' diluted lineup strips any of the luster from this game, even when compounded by the absence of Crosby.
"Regardless of what names are on the jersey, we have plenty of history, plenty of hard feelings and plenty of hard-fought games," coach Dan Bylsma said. "Some good memories, some bad memories. We know we're playing a good team."
That's pretty much a given with the Red Wings, who have not missed the Stanley Cup playoffs since 1990 and have been the league's most consistently competitive team over the past two decades.
While Detroit was among the NHL's biggest spenders before the salary cap took effect, it is the Red Wings' unmatched ability to draft and develop talent has allowed them to stay among the league's elite with remarkably regularity.
"I'm not surprised anymore, but I'm at the point where I'm amazed at how good they've been and how dominant their team has been throughout the regular season, especially, for all those years," Cooke said.
"New guys come in, but the way they approach the game stays the same. The message gets passed on from [Sergei] Fedorov and [Steve] Yzerman to Lidstrom and Zetterberg and Datsyuk. It's a pretty cool thing."
Don't be misled by the veneer of respect the Penguins have for the Red Wings and the legacy they've built over the past 15 or 20 years, however.
Oh, it's genuine -- and so is the respect the Red Wings generally express for the Penguins -- but it also gets peeled back when the puck drops. At that point, passions, and sometimes elbows, tend to get a little higher than usual.
"There will be some energy, some animosity," Bylsma said. "And it will make for an interesting game."
It usually does when these teams meet. Even if there isn't a Stanley Cup at stake.
First Published January 18, 2011 12:00 am