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Fleury flop not like to be repeated in Cup finals @NHL

DETROIT (AP) -The Pittsburgh Penguins are set to put the experience of last year's Stanley Cup finals appearance to good use in the rematch against the Detroit Red Wings.

No one more than Marc-Andre Fleury.

The young Penguins goalie took a flop as he raced to the ice before Game 1 at Joe Louis Arena. He ran down the tunnel before the final warmup and tumbled off the step and onto the ice. He has a chance to make up for that entrance when this year's final series kicks off again in Detroit on Saturday night.

Fleury has taken note of where the red carpet will be and other quirky spots in the aging arena.

"I also know the size of the door, you know," he said Friday with a laugh. "They're a little smaller here so I've got to watch for that."

Fleury shared the podium during Friday's media day with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who couldn't resist a wide smile and a bit of a laugh as Fleury recalled what is likely his most embarrassing hockey moment.

"I heard a lot about it," Fleury said. "I got made fun of for that."

Even Penguins general manager Ray Shero couldn't resist getting in a shot at Fleury.

"Marc-Andre needs to make a good appearance as he jumps onto the ice and not step on the carpet," Shero said. "That would be really good. For us to have success in the Stanley Cup finals, we have to continue playing the way we're playing. You can talk about the experience we drew upon last year, but those are words. We're going to see at the end of the series whether or not it's going to be a factor or not. So I really don't have an answer as to what this experience from last year is going to mean."


WAIT, DIDN'T WE WIN?: Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock admits that Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is the face of the NHL, but that campaign might have gone a bit too far.

On the eve of the Stanley Cup finals rematch between the defending champion Red Wings and Penguins, Babcock joked that maybe there has been some revisionist history created by the NHL's marketing department.

"We know them, they know us. Should be a good battle. I think it's real good for the National Hockey League," Babcock said. "We're an Original Six team with real good players. Sidney Crosby, I mean, you can't turn on any TV that covers hockey without seeing him.

"Actually, when I watch the commercials from last year I think they won, not us. So I have to check every once in a while to get that figured out."


HOUDINI HELM: The Red Wings like prospects to become "over ripe" - as general manager Ken Holland says - in the minors before getting a chance to play a lot for them in the regular season.

If the young players are good enough to dominate for Grand Rapids in the AHL, they get an opportunity in the playoffs.

Darren Helm is a the latest example of the patient strategy working well.

The 22-year-old forward was ready to play an increased role in the last game of the Western Conference finals when Detroit's injury-depleted team needed him.

In perhaps one of the most spectacular efforts on a penalty kill, Helm kept the puck away from the Chicago Blackhawks by himself.

"That was impressive," teammate Kris Draper said Friday. "As a penalty killer, you love to be able to hold onto the puck and drag it for a little bit. But for 26, 27 seconds or whatever it was, there were two guys on him and he was going in between them, under some guys and ended up getting a great scoring chance."

In two years, Helm has scored five times in 34 playoff games and doesn't have a goal in 23 games in the regular season. Like a lot of Red Wings, a lot of teams had a shot at selecting him before Detroit did with the 132nd pick overall in the 2005 draft.

"He's getting rewarded now with more ice time because of how well he's playing, and because we're a little banged up, and he's making the most of it," said Draper, who is on the list of banged-up Red Wings. "Last year, he scored some big goals in this playoffs.

"This year, he scored a huge goal in Game 7 against Anaheim and like he said, the biggest goal of his career, the other night against Chicago in overtime."


TUNING IN: Versus has something to look forward to as it gears up to televise Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup finals between the defending champion Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, last year's runner-up.

The just-completed conference finals on Versus were the highest-rated third round on cable since 1998. The second round was the best on cable since 1997. For the first three rounds combined, Versus has posted a 27 percent increase in viewership over last year.

In the conference finals, the rating rose to 1.5 over last year's 1.2 - a 25 percent increase. Total viewership in the round that featured Detroit's five-game win over Chicago in the Western Conference and Pittsburgh's sweep of Carolina in the East went up 30 percent.

Versus' coverage of Game 5 in the Detroit-Chicago series on Wednesday night earned a 2.1 rating and averaged 2,323,921 total viewers. It was the network's most-watched telecast among households (1,551,534) and tied Lance Armstrong's then-final ride on July 24, 2005, for Versus' highest-rated program.


AP Sports Writer Larry Lage contributed to this report.

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