DETROIT - The NHL's new economics have done nothing to derail the Detroit Red Wings' juggernaut.
The Red Wings are back in the Stanley Cup finals for the 23rd time and the first since 2002, when they won their 10th championship. This finals appearance might be Detroit's most impressive.
The NHL's collective bargaining agreement in 2005 forced the high-spending Red Wings to operate with a salary cap and they lost Steve Yzerman to retirement and Brendan Shanahan in free agency the next two years.
"We came out of the work stoppage and had to basically cut our payroll in half and make some tough decisions," general manager Ken Holland said Tuesday night in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm thrilled we're back in the finals, but it's not like we're a one-year wonder.
"In three seasons, we've won two Presidents' Trophies, tied for one and we were in the final four last year."
The NHL's top-seeded team will open the Stanley Cup finals at home Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"We've had a real good team here since the lockout and have done a lot of excellent things," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "But this is the first time we've had a chance."
Detroit doesn't expect to have Johan Franzen in the lineup for Game 1.
The forward known as Mule, who has an NHL-high 12 goals in the playoffs, missed the last five games against the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference finals because of concussion-like symptoms.
"A doctor is going to take a look at him Thursday or Friday," Holland said. "He's doubtful to start the series, but we're hopeful we'll get him back at some point of the series."
The Red Wings got past Dallas in six games after leading 3-0 without Franzen, but they will need all the help they can get to keep up with Pittsburgh's trio of scorers.
Sidney Crosby has 21 points, tying him with Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg for the league lead, and Evgeni Malkin and Marian Hossa have 19 points each to match Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk.
"They have a ton of skill and we do as well," said Red Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, a five-time Norris Trophy winner. "They try to play puck-possession like we do. It's a good match of styles."
The Red Wings, who played with a lot of finesse in 2002 with a roster full of future Hall of Famers, have been subtly transformed into a skilled team with grit.
Holland credits Babcock for that.
"In his three seasons, he has made us a tougher team that is a lot harder to play against," Holland said. "He has been telling the guys to drive the net and we scored twice like that last night in Dallas."
The Red Wings eliminated the Stars with a 4-1 win Monday night in Game 6.
Kris Draper started the scoring early in the game when a puck went off his face and stick.
It cost Draper three teeth, but he didn't care.
"The puck crossed the line, so it's all good," Draper said when the team arrived home Tuesday.
Draper was relieved a Game 7 wasn't necessary on Wednesday night because his wife is due to deliver their third child.
"I told the guys there's no way I could have Game 7," he said with a smile. "I've got too much to do."