Draper in, Datsyuk uncertain for Game 4


There’s nothing like a loss in the Stanley Cup final to accelerate rehabilitation.


PITTSBURGH — There’s nothing like a loss in the Stanley Cup final to accelerate rehabilitation.

The Detroit Red Wings will have Kris Draper in the lineup for Game 4 Thursday, and a return by Hart Trophy finalist Pavel Datsyuk is not out of the question.

“(Draper) is in, I don’t know who is out,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, but the likely candidates include fourth-liners Kirk Maltby and rookie Justin Abdelkader, who scored the clinching goal in each of the first two games. Babcock might also wonder about Jiri Hudler, who has disappeared in the final.

Datsyuk, following in the footsteps of Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, had his own stand-up comedy routine going Wednesday.

“Oh, I tell you, just this is not fun to watch. I take in lots of beer,” said Datsyuk, who blocked a shot in Game 2 of the Chicago series and hasn’t played since. Draper has missed five games with a groin injury, but was healthy enough to play the last two.

Datsyuk said he was just happy to be able to put on the skates without a lot of pain, and was smiling and joking with teammates at practice.

“Yeah, I feel like again 18 years young. But I have lots of fun, exciting wearing the skates. Like almost 10 days, two weeks, you’re excited.”

If both Draper and Datsyuk are ready, the Russian could end up on the wing, instead of at centre.

“I think at wing, centre, defenceman — I want to play so bad. I don’t want to watch this game again,” he said. “The game is 60 minutes, I hope I play 60 minutes.”

• Goalie Chris Osgood said that Datsyuk’s return would take a lot of pressure off Henrik Zetterberg.

“When Hank plays 23, 24 minutes, it’s hard. He’s all over the ice, throwing hits, chasing Crosby around. To get Pav back is going to be key just to play big minutes against their top players,” Osgood said. “And he adds offence to us. He holds the puck great, but also defensively in our own zone, him and Hank can play off each other great and give us that one-two punch that we need.

“We’ve played five games in eight days without Pav, and to me, that’s long enough. We’ve made it this far, but we don’t want to take any more chances.”

• Osgood said he was amazed that of all the players on the team, Maltby didn’t pick up on the 25-second stretch in which the Penguins had six skaters on the ice at one point during the first period, without any of the four officials noticing.

“I was actually mad at him,” said the goalie. “It’s hilarious listening to him on the bench. He refs, coaches and plays all at once. And he wasn’t yelling hard enough at the too many men on the ice penalty (Tuesday) night. He usually has those or makes the call before it even happens.”

• Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma, who played with Wayne Gretzky in Los Angeles, said he’s not quite ready to start comparing Evgeni Malkin, or anyone else, to the Great One.

“There are things that each guy can do that only a few can do. It’s a gift offensively, anticipation-wise, the ability to seem to know the time and space that they have and even don’t have at times,” Bylsma said. “And even better yet, they know when other people have that time and space to deliver the puck to them. So they’re gifted players, for sure. I was a Wayne Gretzky fan growing up. So I’m not ready to say Geno or anybody at this point in time is as good as he was.

“But I didn’t have the (front-row) seat to watch Wayne in his heyday with the Oilers. Now, certainly, I have a great seat to watch what Geno and Sid, and these players can do in a unique way on the ice.”

• Former Vancouver Canuck winger Matt Cooke has been a surprisingly big contributor to the Penguins, both as a physical presence and penalty killer, and for the most part he has stayed away from the cheap-shot penalties that drove the Canucks crazy.

“Matt Cooke’s been really big for us,” said Pens’ Maxime Talbot. “We talk a lot about Sid, Geno, scoring goals. It’s nice to be here on the podium and to be talked about. But when you look at a guy like Matt Cooke and (Brooks) Orpik finishing their hits, I think that’s one thing that’s different from last year to this year.

“I think we’ve brought it to (the Red Wings) a little bit more. Being more physical. And it doesn’t maybe show on the score sheet, but it definitely gives a lot of momentum, a lot of life. And it gets the crowd going at home, so they’ve been a big part of our success.”

• The Detroit Red Wings have struggled on the penalty kill all season, but it was the timing of Sergei Gonchar’s power-play goal in Game 3 that bothered coach Mike Babcock.

The Wings allowed two power-play goals on three chances and are only killing off penalties at a 71.4 per cent rate.

"It’s not even the percentage, it’s when you give them up," Babcock said. "That’s huge.

"(Tuesday) we needed a kill without any question, it was a 2-2 game."

While crediting the Penguins for some great work on Gonchar’s goal, Babcock blamed his own team for losing too many puck battles.

"We had three opportunities that we should’ve had the puck down the ice," Babcock said. "We should’ve won the battle and got it down the ice."

Wings goalie Chris Osgood said Detroit needs to keep a tighter rein on Gonchar at the point.

"He’s kind of their main pivot point," Osgood said. "I think we’re giving him too much time up top."

• Jordan Staal will begin his new four-year, $16-million US contract next season and the Penguins have to be hoping a bigger paycheck means bigger production.

The 20-year-old Thunder Bay, Ont., native is minus-2 with only six shots through three games of the Stanley Cup final.

If you go back to last year, Staal is now pointless in nine games in his career in the final.

Through 20 playoffs games this spring, Staal has two goals, six points and is a minus-7.

• Pittsburgh’s Game 3 win marked the fourth straight final series in which the home team for Game 3 came back from the road trailing 0-2 and won the third game of the series.

But not one of the previous three teams — the 2006 Edmonton Oilers, the 2007 Ottawa Senators, or the 2008 Penguins — were able to rally and win the Cup.

In fact, all of them lost Game 4 at home to fall behind 3-1 in the series.

Vancouver Sun/Windsor Star

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