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Holmstrom remains a game-time decision

by Brian Compton

Tomas Holmstrom's injured hamstring may keep him out of action for tonight's Game 4. Holmstrom video
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PITTSBURGH – Will he or won't he?

That was the question the herd of media asked in regards to Tomas Holmstrom's status for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final tonight as the Detroit Red Wings look to bounce back from Wednesday's 3-2 loss at Mellon Arena (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio).

Holmstrom participated in the team's pre-game skate and certainly didn't appear to have any lingering effects following his collision with Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Hal Gill in the final minutes of Game 3. Holmstrom did not speak with the media Saturday morning, but coach Mike Babcock seemed confident that his power forward will be in the lineup.

Nonetheless, Holmstrom remains a game-time decision. If he is unable to play, veteran forward Darren McCarty will take his place.

"He did just what everyone else did," Babcock said of Holmstrom, who has four goals and eight assists this postseason. "He felt pretty good.  He's going to come back for the game tonight, see how he feels.

"If he's ready to go, he's playing.  If not, obviously he'll be scratched."

Red Wings players were pretty secretive when asked about Holmstrom. In fact, some claimed they weren't paying attention to how the 35-year-old looked out on the ice.

"I didn't see him out there," Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski said. "If he plays, that's great. You want him out there and doing what he does. He's someone that's going to compete. At this time of the year, you're going to play through just about anything."

Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom hopes to have Holmstrom back in the lineup, but if he's unable to play, the game plan does not change. While Detroit fired 16 shots in the third period on Wednesday night and 34 overall, Lidstrom believes the Red Wings can improve in that department in Game 4.

"Hopefully he'll be ready to go," Lidstrom said. "I didn't see him skate, but hopefully he'll be ready for tonight's game. One of the keys for us in the playoffs is to get more shots. We've got to get guys at the net, too. We've got to create some traffic in front."

The Red Wings are aware their power play needs to be better than it was on Wednesday, when Detroit went just 1-for-5 with the man advantage. Regardless of Holmstrom's status, Babcock believes his top unit – which boasts the likes of star forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg – will do a better job of generating chances tonight.

"They're going to respond like they always do," Babcock said. "The power play is going to be on fire and they're going to play well. The great thing about good players is they do it right 99 percent of the time. And when they have a little drought, it's usually pretty exciting for the coach, because you know they're coming right back."

Sidney Crosby started the comeback for Pittsburgh in Game 3 with a pair of goals. His first tally was the first for the Penguins in this series after being blanked in the first two games in Detroit. But if the Red Wings can revert to their suffocating defense tonight, it will put them in a position to win the Stanley Cup in front of their hometown fans on Monday night at Joe Louis Arena.

"It is motivation for us," Lidstrom said. "You want to win every game and put yourself in the best position possible. We can do that by winning tonight. We know we have to bear down a little bit more defensively and play a little bit tighter in our own end. But we've got to sustain some pressure on their 'D' a little bit more."
A traffic jam? -- Going into Game 4, the Detroit Red Wings were quietly confident ... yet at the same time a little angry at themselves.

In the series, the Wings have out-shot Pittsburgh 36-19, 34-22 and 34-24. The latter numbers on defense are exactly what Detroit expects. But a 40-shot or more night could very well be in store Saturday night if you listen to power forward Johan Franzen.

"In the last game, we had traffic, but didn't get the puck to the net as often as we wanted to," Franzen said. "Tonight, we have to fire pucks from all angles and keep going to the net.

"Same old. Same old. Traffic and lots of shots. That's always been our game plan."

And with a healthy Tomas Holmstrom in the lineup and a more determined Franzen and Dan Cleary crashing the net, look for Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to see a lot of rubber in Game 4.

-- Larry Wigge

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