-- Kirk Maltby
doesn't intend to change much prior to the biggest game of his career when his Detroit Red Wings
play the Pittsburgh Penguins
in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
He'll go through the same routine as most of the other players. He might take a quick nap before heading over with a few of his teammates to the usual eatery for a pregame meal in downtown Detroit. Other than that, it's business as usual.
Or is it?
"As we progress closer to game time, you're going to be thinking more and it'll be hard to put your thoughts somewhere else," Maltby said following his team's optional skate Friday morning. "Fortunately, my daughter had a gymnastics competition (Thursday night) so I got to go to that and it was good because I wasn't totally distracted thinking hockey or talking hockey. Still, it is hard to shut off this time of year."
Watching his 5-year-old daughter jump around on the gymnastics mat, receive a trophy and pose for pictures was a nice break for Maltby. When he woke up Friday morning, however, reality set in.
"It's easier said than done to not think about the game," Maltby said. "It's no different than any other big day in your life, whether that be graduation, marriage or something like that. It's hard not to think about it and go about a daily routine, driving around town or even seeing someone turn on the TV without noticing something about the game. But, for me, I'll concentrate on doing my normal routine as I would on game day and it'll be fun tonight."
Maltby's actually one of four players on Detroit's postseason roster with four Stanley Cup rings. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said it makes no difference whether you're young or old, a Game 7 of the Cup Final will be a memorable event.
"I think it's special for everybody and anyone who is involved in this," Babcock said. "Steve Yzerman
told me the other day when I was talking to him about what he thought and he never got this opportunity. Mr. (Ted) Lindsay comes in, Mr. (Gordie) Howe comes in and they always share their experiences. To me, you're going to remember forever."
Babcock, like Maltby, was also locked into a familiar routine on Friday morning.
"I think I pretty much did exactly what I always do," he said. "I went for a run, went through the game plan and did all the stuff I've always done. I think (Thursday) was different because it's exciting. I mean, it's just flat out exciting to be here. Anywhere you go in this town, people are talking about it, and excited about it and plan on watching it."
In addition to seeing their dad more often following Friday's game, Maltby knows his family will also be looking forward to his shaving of the playoff beard.
"My 5-year-old pulls on it all the time and it hurts, so even I'm ready for it to come off, but I can wait one more game," Maltby said. "The thing is, it'll all be over soon, so it's just about taking this all in and enjoying it. That's the way you have to approach it because you're not going to be in these situations too often."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.