DETROIT (AP) -Six years later, Dan Bylsma still feels the pain.
It's the kind of hurt that comes from a Game 7 loss when the Stanley Cup is an arm's length away, and it doesn't disappear unless the championship dream is finally fulfilled.
Bylsma missed his chance as a player with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2003 against the New Jersey Devils, but now has another shot as coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. His club will take on the defending champion Detroit Red Wings in a winner-take-all matchup Friday night.
"That loss in '03, it's tough for me to watch any team get their trophy at the end. Whether it be baseball, football, doesn't matter," Bylsma said Thursday of the 3-0 defeat. "When they hand out the trophy, I'd just as soon not watch because it brings back some pretty haunting memories about getting close in Game 7.
"It's something I would have liked to have done as a player and didn't."
His coaching counterpart, Mike Babcock of the Red Wings, shares that pain - at least he did. Babcock was the coach of that Anaheim team before he moved on to Detroit and earned his title last year against the Penguins.
The Red Wings know all about winning. With a Game 7 victory at Joe Louis Arena, where they are 11-1 during these playoffs, Hockeytown will be home to the Cup for the 12th time overall and fifth in 12 seasons.
Detroit is also the last team to repeat as Stanley Cup champion, doing it in 1997 and 1998.
Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper are on the verge of becoming the first Red Wings players to win five titles with Detroit. The run started when guys like Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan were starring in Motown.
"It's just like the torch has been passed along," said Chris Osgood, who has won three titles with the Red Wings, two as the starting goalie. "When it gets right down to it, it's experience that counts. It's being in those situations. If you're not there, then you don't really know what it's like or how to react until you've done it."
The guys who have done it tried to explain how Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals is really like any other game. When that seemingly unbelievable message comes from players who have championship rings that nearly cover a whole hand it begins to sound plausible.
"It's hard to really mentally sell it to yourself that it's just another game, but it is," Maltby said.
The home team won each of the first six games. The Penguins went 1-2 at Joe Louis Arena in last year's finals and have been outscored 11-2 in three losses in this series.
Given the chance to have the Penguins practice in Detroit on Thursday, Bylsma decided the upside wasn't enough to sacrifice another day at home. They skated one last time in Pittsburgh before flying to Detroit.
"I didn't think a seventh time or an eighth time ... was going to show us one thing about the boards that we didn't already know," Bylsma said. "I thought staying home would give us a better chance to be more focused and more prepared in our routine."
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby has been bottled up by forward Henrik Zetterberg, who hits the ice pretty much every time Crosby does, and hasn't scored a goal in six finals games in Detroit.
Crosby and teammate Evgeni Malkin, who led the NHL with 113 points in the regular season, went pointless in the Game 6 win. The Penguins can't expect to dethrone the Red Wings in Detroit if Crosby and Malkin are blanked again.
"I'd always like to score more," said Crosby, who has a goal and two assists in the series. "I look back, and on some of the chances I've had just didn't really get a whole lot of luck. Now is not the time to think about what could have been. The only way I'm looking at here is it's a great opportunity, and I've got to try to go out there and play my best game in the playoffs.
"No matter what's happened before, whether I had one goal or 10, doesn't really matter."
History strongly favors the Red Wings. Home teams are 12-2 in championship Game 7s and have won 80 of the 128 playoff series that have gone the distance (62.5 percent).
While the Red Wings have a wealth of experience and lots of practice in hoisting the Cup, compared to the Penguins - whose two championships came well before this group was in Pittsburgh - they haven't played a finals Game 7 with Detroit.
The Red Wings are 12-7 overall in Game 7s, but haven't been in one in the finals since 1964. They haven't hosted a decisive game with the Cup on the line since 1955 - a 3-1 victory over Montreal.
"I am sure there will be some butterflies early on, especially here in the room before you hit the ice," captain Lidstrom said. "Once you start playing, you are so focused on what you have to do and your assignments out there. I think that will go away."