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Red Wings aren't overconfident

by Dan Rosen

Dallas Stars veteran right winger Jere Lehtinen, is currently day-to-day with a leg injury. Jere Lehtinen highlights
This is the third time in their last six playoff series the Detroit Red Wings have been up 2-0 with the series shifting to an unfriendly building. Twice they have returned home with the series tied at two games apiece.

So, if you think the Red Wings are already thinking about the Stanley Cup Final, think again. They know all too well how difficult winning on the road can be despite dispatching Colorado in a four-game sweep last round.

"The bottom line is what we've done is held serve," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said Monday morning. "Our big thing is just to maintain the level of play, not to let it fall off. If we can do that, we're going to have a good opportunity here."

Detroit won the first two games against Nashville in the first round, but the Predators ripped off a pair of wins at the Sommet Center before Detroit won the series in six. Last year in the first round, Detroit took a 2-0 lead to Calgary, but the Flames won twice before falling in six games.

"We were up 3-2 in Nashville in Game 3 and the wheels came off," Babcock said. "Same at Calgary, we totally dominated the games. We got in penalty trouble and they scored a 5-on-3 goal. You're always trying to learn from previous experiences."

Babcock stressed that it's time for the Red Wings to "put your will" on Dallas, but it won't be easy because, "they're going to have energy. They've got their crowd. They've got their building. And, yet, we like our team. We like the way we're playing and we believe."

Lehtinen leg woes – Dallas coach Dave Tippett hasn't yet ruled Jere Lehtinen (leg injury) out of tonight's Game 3, but he's hardly confident that the feisty Finn will be skating alongside linemates Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro either.

"It will be questionable," Tippett said this morning. "He got some treatment. We'll see if he can take warmup tonight. And if he gives us the go, he's a go. If not, he'll be on the sidelines. He's close, but we'll see."

Tippett said that if Lehtinen can't play tonight either Brandon Crombeen or Chris Conner will be inserted into the lineup. Crombeen has played in five playoff games, but has totaled just 21:21 of ice time. Conner hasn't played an NHL game since Jan. 2, but he played 55 games with the Iowa Stars of the AHL this season and 22 with Dallas. He was recalled on April 14, one day after Iowa's season ended. Conner is from Westland, Mich., which is about 30 miles outside of Detroit. He played four years at Michigan Tech before signing with Dallas as an unrestricted free agent on July 13, 2006.

"Speed would be the big factor there," Tippett said when asked why he would insert Conner into tonight's lineup. "The pace of the game is pretty quick out there. He's a guy that had a great training camp for us last year. When we have called him up from the minors, in and out, he's given us a real spark. And if he goes in, that's exactly what we'll be looking for from him. I think this is the kind of series he would fit well in."

How many is that? – Asked why Detroit's defense is so effective too many crunching hits – save for Niklas Kronwall, of course – Babcock talked about efficiency.

"Everyone talks about how unphysical we are, but we had 39 finished checks last game," he said. "I think if you ask their 'D,' I don't think they would be telling you how unphysical we are."

Remembering Game 6 – The last time the Stars skated on the American Airlines Center ice, the game went into the fourth overtime before Brenden Morrow ended it and San Jose's season with a goal for a 2-1 victory.

"The fans have been unbelievable here, and that's an emotion that you can build on," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "And our guys right now, we've got to find a way to win a hockey game. Any help you can get from the 18,000 behind you, we welcome that help.

"The last game was a great hockey game at home. Hopefully they can take some of those memories into this game, but we have to come out and have the best game of the series so far for us."

Check that – Tippett said the only way to stymie Detroit's now famous puck-possession game is to check with a purpose.

"When you check, you get the puck back," he said. "It's a situation where when you get the puck, you gotta do good things with it. You gotta keep it. When you don't have it, you gotta go get it."

A quarter-century ago Tippett was taught that very lesson by Jack Evans, who was his first NHL coach in Hartford.

"I was a checker, and I had gone about 20 games without scoring," Tippett recalled. "Jack came over to me one day and said, 'Tip, I love the way you're checking. You're checking great. Let me give you a bit of advice, when you check a guy you don't have to give it back to him just so you can check him again. Right?'

"So the work ethic and everything is fine, but you gotta be able to do things with the puck. When you have it, do good things with it, execute well with it. When you don't have it, you gotta check well to get it back.

"That's one of Detroit's strengths. They've got people who can do good things with the puck. I'd like to see us do more quality things on the execution part with the puck."

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