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Red Wings calm, cool, collected

by Brian Compton

After putting forth consecutive dominating efforts to start the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Final, the Detroit Red Wings rolled into Pittsburgh a confident group as they prepare to face the Penguins in Game 3 of their matchup (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio)
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PITTSBURGH -- Twenty-four hours after the Pittsburgh Penguins accused the Detroit Red Wings of acting and embellishing, the Western Conference Champions arrived in the Steel City calm, cool and collected.

With a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final, the Red Wings have every right to feel as confident as they do, considering they’ve yet to even allow a goal in this series despite the firepower that the Pens possess up front.

Detroit dominated Game 2 from the drop of the puck, as it did not allow a shot on goal until the 12-minute mark of the opening period, which came on a Penguins’ power play. Pittsburgh’s first shot at even strength recorded roughly five minutes into the second period.

Clearly, the Penguins are in desperation mode as the series shifts to Mellon Arena for Game 3 Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio). The Red Wings, however, will simply be looking to carry the momentum garnered from the first two games in Motown into Pittsburgh.

“It was a real good start for us,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Obviously, you want to get off to a good start. After winning Game 1, you’re always doing everything obviously to prepare for the next game. I thought we got off to a good start. I thought when we went up 2-0 (on Monday), they had a push there. We got cautious for a period of time. Other than that, we played a pretty good hockey game.”

So good, in fact, that the Penguins became visibly frustrated. Veteran forward Gary Roberts – who was a healthy scratch in Game 1 – appeared to have made contact with Johan Franzen’s head in the later stages of Game 2. Franzen returned to action on Monday night after missing the previous six games with concussion-like symptoms. Afterward, Roberts accused Franzen of embellishing when the latter went down to the ice in a heap.

“Rob’s allowed to say whatever he wants to say,” Babcock said. “We were all at the game. We all watched. I don’t know, does he have shoulder pads on his hands?”

Babcock came close, but wouldn’t go as far as to say that the Penguins were gunning for Franzen. One of his leaders, however, said Pittsburgh’s intent was as clear as day.

“Everyone knows what’s happened with Franzen,” Wings forward Kris Draper said. “It was a tough injury that certainly caught him off-guard. To get him back in the lineup was a great boost. Definitely, they went out of their way to hit him in the head. The good thing is he has a new helmet and a big head.”

Franzen didn’t have anything negative to say about Roberts or the Penguins in the aftermath of Game 2, claiming that he put himself in those situations. Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom believes that Pittsburgh’s inability to generate anything offensively – the Penguins became just the fourth team in NHL history to be shut out in the first two games of the Final – is what caused the skirmishes in the late moments of Monday’s contest.

“I think we saw a little bit of frustration on their part,” Lidstrom said. “I guess that’s the way they’re looking at it. Our approach is we’re going to continue to play like we have. But I also think they’re trying to spark their team and gain some momentum going into Game 3.”

The momentum, however, remains in Detroit’s corner until the Penguins can prove they can break through the Red Wings’ force field. And if Pittsburgh has any plans of repeating what transpired late in Game 2 on Wednesday night, it sounds as if it will be hard-pressed to find dance partners.

“We felt we played a real disciplined hockey game,” Draper said of Monday’s win. “There was some stuff going on after the whistles, and we just skated away from it. It’s something we’ve been saying all playoff long – we don’t want to get in scrums. It doesn’t benefit us. If we can play five-on-five, then we’re going to continue to do that. That was the end of the game. It’s over. It’s done with. Any time they get an opportunity to hit any one of us – especially our star player – that’s exactly what they’re going to do.”

Brad Stuart, who arrived at the trade deadline from the Los Angeles Kings, agreed with Draper and believes his club has already put Game 2 behind it.
 “They were probably a little bit frustrated towards the end of the game,” said Stuart, who opened the scoring on Monday night. “It’s not something we’ve probably thought about since the buzzer went off at the end of Game 2. We’re just going to go out and do the same things we do. If they’re going to change their game, it’s not something we can worry about.”

Nor will the Red Wings worry about accusations pointed in their direction. Their only focus is winning two more games in this series, which would give them their fourth Stanley Cup in the last 11 seasons.

“Things are going to be said … this is the Stanley Cup Final,” Draper said. “We have thick skin. Tomorrow night is a huge game. The bottom line is finding ways to win hockey games, and we’ve been able to do that. Our work ethic is very good. We feel we’re doing everything that we can to play as a team.”

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