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Red Wings, Penguins keep it simple ahead of Game 7 @NHLdotcom

DETROIT (AP) - Dozing off, watching some TV, eating.

Red Wings and Penguins alike planned to chill out ahead of Friday's Game 7 showdown at Joe Louis Arena - sticking to the pregame routines they have followed throughout the lengthy regular season and postseason.

After all, they are hockey players, some of the more superstitious athletes around.

"I'm going to do what I always do," said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom. "Go home, have a pregame meal, a pregame nap."

Not exactly exciting stuff, but effective, they say.

"When you get to a game day and you get to a morning skate and you get to a meeting and you get to going back to the hotel for lunch and then getting some rest, then getting up at the same time you get up always, that is normal," said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma. "That feels comfortable because you've done it so many times before. And, yes, it does provide the structure, does provide the atmosphere that you can say this is just another game."

Pens defenseman Hal Gill was determined to "do the same as I always do. Go have lunch. Go watch a little TV. Take a nap. Get up. Have a snack. Come to the rink. Stretch. Warm up and go."

Red Wings forward Kirk Maltby had a similar strategy, but his path to an afternoon slumber had a few obstacles standing in the way.

"I try to get about an hour nap - if my kids let me," he said, laughing.


PREGAME PAIN: Jordan Staal had an unwelcome start to his Friday, taking a puck to the head during the morning skate.

The Pittsburgh center was camped out in front of the net during a power-play drill when a shot caromed off a stick and slammed into his noggin.

"That wasn't too fun," Staal said. "It happens, but I'm glad it hit all helmet."

The 20-year-old doubled over for a few moments before standing back up, and he was greeted by some razzing from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Staal responded by smiling, then taking a whack at the netminder, who reciprocated with a playful glove to his teammate's face.

Fleury "was chirping me about I was bleeding and he was wishing me bad luck, so I gave him a good slash," Staal said.


UNCHARTED TERRITORY: The Red Wings have done it all in recent years, winning four of the last 11 Stanley Cup titles.

But one thing the current players haven't done is play in a Cup finals Game 7.

"I think it's special for everybody," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.

"Steve Yzerman told me the other day when I was talking to him about what he thought, he told me he never got this opportunity. You know, what a great thing," he said. "Since '51, no one has. Mr. (Ted) Lindsay comes in, Mr. (Gordie) Howe comes in, they always share their experiences. ... But this is one to me you're going to remember forever."

Captain Nicklas Lidstrom was a member of those four Cup-winning teams, but he's a newbie when it comes to a one-game, winner-take-all scenario for the championship.

He told his teammates to "enjoy yourself. Not too many chances you're going to get to play a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup finals."

"It's a dream come true to be able to play a game like this," the 39-year-old defenseman said.


BUOYANT BYLSMA: Penguins coach Dan Bylsma looked to be in a good mood ahead of Game 7, bounding all over the Joe Louis Arena ice during the morning skate.

At one point, the ex-NHL player sent a wrist shot flying into an empty goal before turning and pumping his arm in the air as part of a mock goal celebration along the side boards.

He also jumped in on drills, setting up players with crisp passes or skating up beside them for a word - as he did with captain Sidney Crosby, with the men sharing a laugh.

It wasn't that long ago that Bylsma was a player in a Game 7 with the Stanley Cup on the line. That happened in 2003 when he played under current Wings coach Mike Babcock for an Anaheim team that dropped the deciding game to the New Jersey Devils.

And one month ago, he was coaching the Pens in a Game 7 victory at Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

"It's just a game, but it's a darn fun game to throw everything into and get better at and be a part of," Bylsma said. "Sixty minutes. We've got a chance."


ONE-TIMERS: Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena wasn't the only event drawing people to the Detroit riverfront on Friday. Planes were roaring above the water that separates Michigan's largest city and Windsor, Ontario. The high-speed, low-altitude flying was part of the Red Bull Air Race scheduled for this weekend. ... Five players have won the Conn Smythe trophy as NHL playoff MVP multiple times since it first was awarded in 1965. Then-captain and current owner Mario Lemieux is the only Penguin to have won it more than once, and no Red Wing has accomplished the feat. Two current Wings have won it once: defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and forward Henrik Zetterberg. ... The late Bob Johnson was named Pittsburgh's coach 19 years ago to the day. The much-loved figure known as "Badger" led the Pens to their first Stanley Cup triumph in 1991. ... Left wing Tomas Holmstrom was the only member of the Wings to carry a negative plus-minus rating into Game 7. The four-time Stanley Cup winner was a minus-1 through 22 playoff games this season. ... Bill Guerin, Matt Cooke and Petr Sykora led the Penguins with five Game 7 appearances each heading into Friday.

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