-- This one didn't have quite the appeal of the last meeting between the Pittsburgh Penguins
and Detroit Red Wings
here at Joe Louis Arena.
Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final vs. a preseason game in late September with an abundance of major players scratched, including Sidney Crosby
, Evgeni Malkin
, Nicklas Lidstrom
and Henrik Zetterberg
Yeah, we know, no contest. But that doesn't mean there wasn't at least some intrigue in Sunday's tilt, a 4-1 victory by the Red Wings that included a minor melee with 10:01 to play in the third period when tempers flared between these two rivals.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang
appeared to grab a hold of Wings forward Johan Franzen
, who turned and tried to cross check Letang. Bill Guerin
saw it and jumped Franzen, but so did Chris Kunitz
, who tackled from behind the hulking Swede known as Mule. Brian Rafalski
jumped in as well to try to strip Guerin off Franzen.
The result was a Penguins power play as Franzen got an extra minor for cross checking along with one for high-sticking. Kunitz got two minutes for roughing and Guerin was sent off with a 10-minute misconduct.
"We have been going at it for two years and we hope to go at it again," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
Before that fracas -- and a small one that followed less than four minutes later that involved Pittsburgh enforcer Eric Godard
-- this game was playing out as expected: methodical and a bit sloppy at times.
"For an exhibition game it was fun," Detroit veteran Kris Draper said. "These are the games you like to be a part of. For an exhibition game there was great intensity. They were missing some of their big guys but so were we. Maybe this is what we needed, a fun game against a great rival."
It was Pittsburgh's final tune-up game before opening the season and unfurling their Stanley Cup championship banner Friday night at Mellon Arena. It was Detroit's final North American preseason game before heading to Sweden after the game to begin final preparations for their regular season opener Friday in Stockholm as part of the 2009 Compuware NHL Premiere.
The Wings won't play another game on North American ice until they host Chicago Oct. 8.
Conscious of the long travel ahead of them -- the overnight flight to Stockholm should take an estimated nine hours -- the Wings iced a lineup that included only 12 players that are expected to be on the active roster come Friday.
Goalie Chris Osgood
, defensemen Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall
, Brett Lebda
and Brad Stuart
, as well as forwards Zetterberg, Dan Cleary
, Todd Bertuzzi
, Valtteri Filppula
and Justin Abdelkader
However, Babcock showed some of his cards by playing Pavel Datsyuk
with Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom
in the first period. That could be one of the Wings' two scoring lines when the season opens.
Zetterberg, Cleary and Bertuzzi would make up the other.
Draper spent some time centering Kirk Maltby
and Patrick Eaves
. That could be the Wings' fourth line when the real season opens. It's speculating, but that would leave a checking line of Filppula with Jason Williams
and Ville Leino
The Wings power play, which was first in the League last season, also looked good in scoring three times on eight attempts.
Franzen had the first goal 5:53 into the first period and Williams made it 3-1 with a power-play goal at 15:45 of the second. Leino also scored 14:46 into the third from the low slot when he redirected Williams' point shot into the top right corner of the net.
Williams played on the first unit with Datsyuk, Holmstrom, Franzen and Rafalski.
The Penguins, meanwhile, scratched Crosby (sore groin), Malkin, Ruslan Fedotenko
, Sergei Gonchar
and Mark Eaton
in favor of five players competing for the final three roster spots. Defensemen Nate Guenin
and Deryk Engelland
played along with wingers Paul Bissonnette
, Chris Conner
and Ryan Bayda