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Sykora waits for chance to play for Pens

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PITTSBURGH (AP) - Cramped in a corner of the Pittsburgh Penguins dressing room, closest to the stall of captain Sidney Crosby, Petr Sykora sat and waited for his chance.

He finally got the nod for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Sykora was an on-ice hero for the Penguins a year ago when his goal in triple overtime of Game 5 kept Pittsburgh alive in the finals.

The going has been tougher this year as he was in the Penguins lineup for only six of Pittsburgh's first 19 postseason games and none of the first five in the finals. With several forwards struggling offensively, Sykora held out hope he would get to play.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma gave him that opportunity Tuesday night when he put him in the lineup in favor of Miroslav Satan. Sykora's previous appearance came on May 4 in Game 2 of the second-round series against Washington.

"I am going for the warmup like I did the last few games and we'll see," Sykora said Tuesday morning, hours before he got into the lineup for Game 6.

Sykora joked about his location in the dressing room as the pack of reporters and cameramen trying to get close to Crosby spilled over into the space where Sykora sat at his stall.

"I have a great view right now," he said with a laugh.

Sykora has played in 114 career playoff games over 12 NHL seasons. He scored 32 goals and 69 points in those contests.

"Petr's exceptional skill is he can shoot it in the net," Bylsma said. "That's why he continues to play in this league, and probably will continue to play in this league. When you get 25 goals a year you have something. When he gets the puck on his stick, he puts it behind the goalie.

"In a limited-role situation, if he were to get the puck on his stick, you would expect him to rip it and have a chance for it to go in. That's why he would be appealing."

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TV BLACKOUT: Hockey fans in the Detroit and Pittsburgh area were forced to find other places to watch Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals instead of on big screens at the Red Wings' and Penguins' home arenas Tuesday night.

Concerned about maximizing ratings in those two markets, NBC forbid the Red Wings from letting fans into Joe Louis Arena to watch the game and forced the Penguins to disable a screen outside of Mellon Arena.

Thousands of fans in chairs had parked themselves in the parking lot in Pittsburgh for earlier games in the playoffs that weren't on NBC.

Detroit could have filled the building with fans, who hoped to be able to celebrate the Red Wings' second straight championship and fifth in 12 seasons. The Red Wings entered Game 6 with a 3-2 series lead, and needed one more win to retain the Cup.

"I don't understand the dynamic of all that stuff," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said Tuesday. "That makes no sense to me. We're all in the selling the game business, and the more people that can see it, the better off you are. I think the Chicago Blackhawks might be the greatest example of that."

William Wirtz, the Blackhawks chairman for 41 years, had refused to air Chicago's entire home schedule on television, saying it would cheat ticket-buying fans. That policy changed and Blackhawks games were put on TV after Wirtz died in September 2007.

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THE OTHER FORMER PENGUIN: Marian Hossa is not the only Red Wings player who was with the Penguins last season. It just seems that way.

Backup goalie Ty Conklin was a reserve behind Pittsburgh starter Marc-Andre Fleury a year ago.

"People have kind of left me alone and that's OK," Conklin said. "I got some grief early in Game 3 in Pittsburgh, but nothing like what Marian is hearing. I haven't heard anybody go over the line when they've been getting on him sitting on the bench."

Hossa turned down a long-term, lucrative deal to stay in Pittsburgh. Conklin had to go.

"They didn't offer me a contract," he said. "They had too many eggs to fry to take care of me, too. I understood."

Conklin won 18 games during the 2007-08 season - one fewer than Fleury - but didn't play in the postseason. He helped the Red Wings win 25 games in 37 starts, keeping busy as Chris Osgood's backup. He hopes to re-sign with Detroit.

"I love it here," Conklin said. "I can't imagine there are No. 2 guys playing as much as I did, so hopefully they'll want me back."

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LETANG REMEMBERS: These Stanley Cup finals against Detroit are far more satisfying than those of last season for third-year Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, who had a goal and three assists through five games.

A year ago, he was benched by former coach Michel Therrien for alleged poor play after two games against Detroit and didn't return.

Still, playing in the finals again has rekindled unpleasant memories for Letang. The day after Therrien held out Letang for Game 3 last year, best friend Luc Bourdon of the Vancouver Canucks was killed in a motorcycle accident.

The two defensemen were junior hockey teammates beginning at age 14 and twice won world championships on Canada's junior team. They were planning a vacation together with other friends once the Stanley Cup finals ended.

Letang remains emotional about Bourdon's death, and teammates have seen him become quiet while on the team bus at the mere sight of someone riding a motorcycle.

"I play every game for him," said Letang, who spends a few minutes before each game thinking about his friend.

Letang also talks regularly with Bourdon's family and girlfriend. He received a text message from them minutes after scoring an overtime goal in Game 3 of the second round against Washington, starting the Penguins on their comeback from a 2-0 series deficit.

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AP Sports Writers Alan Robinson and Larry Lage contributed to this report.

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