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Red Wings very close to a clean bill of health

by Phil Coffey /
DETROIT – Mike Babcock's words sent a chill down the collective backs of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I think everybody's ready to go," Babcock said Friday afternoon on the eve of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. "Pavel's going to be the only last-minute decision. Everyone else will be ready."

That means that both Nicklas Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson will be back in the lineup to bolster the Detroit defense, and center Pavel Datsyuk sounded very encouraged that Babcock's last-minute decision will put him in the lineup for Game 1 (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio) against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Now, instead of flashing the incredible depth that made headlines in the Western Conference Finals against Chicago, the Red Wings will be back to flashing two world-class players and a very promising young defenseman.

The linchpin is Lidstrom, the reigning Norris Trophy holder who will see a lot of ice time defending against Sidney Crosby. Lidstrom is one of the top players in the game and is a comforting presence for the Wings, who have seen very few things go wrong when he is on the ice.

"I'll be ready to go tomorrow night," Lidstrom concurred. "I skated a little bit yesterday, practiced today, and felt fine today, so I'll be ready to go tomorrow night.

How comforting is Lidstrom? Consider he had played 228 consecutive playoff games until suffering a lower-body injury that kept him out of Games 4 and 5 against the Blackhawks. He is going for his fifth Stanley Cup. Needless to say, getting back on the ice has made his day.

"It was very hard watching, sitting on the sidelines and watching the guys play," he said. "I haven't experienced that before in the playoffs. It was very tough to sit and watch. (The injury) happened during Friday night's game, Game 3 in Chicago. And just couldn't play on Sunday. Same thing the other night, Wednesday night, for Game 5.  I wasn't ready to go. So I feel good now, and feel fresh and feel ready to go and go at it now."

Datsyuk has been hobbled by what some are calling an ankle injury that has inhibited his skating, forcing him to miss the last three games against Chicago. But he sported a big smile when answering questions about his status.

"I'm always optimistic," he said. "You always have a chance. Today I skated with the team and I had a lot of fun.

"I feel more comfortable," Datsyuk said. "Maybe not 100 percent, but I think I can play."

Detroit Red Wings Western Conference Champs Gear So, Pav, is it your ankle?

"I can't tell you about it," he said, with the smile getting even bigger.

Ericsson can tell you all about it -- but he would rather not. He didn't feel well Tuesday afternoon; he had pain in his abdomen and was sick to his stomach. When it didn't subside, tests revealed the need for an appendectomy, which he underwent Wednesday, forcing him to miss Game 5 against the Blackhawks. Babcock said he will play in Game 1 against the Penguins.

"Ericsson's playing for sure," said Babcock, who noted that Ericsson didn't skate Friday. "He just didn't want to with the surgery he had, they didn't want to put him on the ice today. But he'll be ready to go tomorrow."
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