PITTSBURGH (AP) -Nicklas Lidstrom carried his traveling bag back into the hotel for the Red Wings' final road trip of the season.
If all goes well for the Detroit captain and his teammates, Lidstrom will be lugging his luggage along with the Stanley Cup out of Pittsburgh for the second straight year.
The Red Wings returned to the Steel City on Monday, the eve of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals. Like a year ago, Detroit owns a 3-2 lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins and can wrap up another championship on the ice at Mellon Arena.
"We know as a team that we're not there yet," Lidstrom said upon his arrival. "We know we need another win to get to where we want to be."
If anyone knows what it takes to reach that supreme level it's Lidstrom and his teammates, many of whom join him in going for their fifth championship in 12 seasons.
Game 6 has been quite kind to the Red Wings. Detroit won 13 straight Game 6s when the opportunity was there to eliminate an opponent. The run ended when Anaheim forced a seventh game this year in the second round, but that was the only time Detroit has let a team of the hook in these playoffs.
What makes it even more impressive is that the Red Wings have had home-ice advantage so often in recent years that those Game 6s have largely been played on enemy ice.
"The experience that we have on our team has really helped us in those situations when you're going into a Game 6 on the road," Lidstrom said. "You know you have to play well for 60 minutes. You know they're going to come at you real hard and trying to get that win.
"We've been able to kind of play the patient style that we can play when we have to and take advantage of our chances, and I think that's the way we're approaching this game, too. We know they're going to be a desperate hockey team. We know they're going to be coming out hard."
If the Penguins keep the home-ice advantage going for the sixth straight time in this series, Game 7 will be played Friday night in Detroit. For the third time since 1978, the home team has won the first five games in the finals.
This is the second consecutive year the Penguins returned home for Game 6 of the finals, trailing the Red Wings 3-2. The difference is Pittsburgh pulled out a triple-overtime victory at Detroit in Game 5 to stay alive in 2008. This time they limped back following a 5-0 rout at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night.
"Mentally, I think we're in a different situation," Penguins forward Max Talbot said. "Last year it was 3-1. We tried to battle back and it felt so hard to come back and win three games in a row.
"This year it was 2-2 and we play good at home. We're coming back for a Game 6 and the guys are confident. We're looser. We're ready to go. We know it won't be easy, but it's the biggest game of our career and we definitely don't want to have the same feeling as last year."
The Red Wings recalled the sour taste they had in their mouths after blowing the chance a year ago to win the Cup in front of their home fans in Game 5.
Detroit was 34.3 seconds away from claiming the prize when Talbot scored the tying goal and forced overtime. Petr Sykora, who has yet to play in this series, won it for Pittsburgh in the third extra session.
"Last year was disappointing beyond belief when we lost Game 5," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We had the game won and we turned it over two times. ... The way it turned out in the end it's not a big deal. Can you imagine if you didn't win the Cup and you did that? You're 32 seconds away from winning. I can remember thinking that for a second.
"But it's like anything. You got up the next day and you refocused. I think that's what happens to teams."
The Penguins will be facing elimination for the second time in these playoffs. They blew out the Washington Capitals on the road in Game 7 of the second round after overcoming a 2-0 series deficit and then a home loss in Game 6.
"This year's series there is a higher confidence," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said of the Red Wings matchup. "We've seen a lot better results with the way we've played. We'll draw on that experience - more so the results when we've played our game and the success we've had with it. We'll take that more from this series than we would last year's."