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Wings glad to be playing Game 7 vs. Ducks at home

by Brian Compton /

"Game 7's are always a lot of fun.  It's a good opportunity for us.  We played all year to have home-ice advantage. If we want to keep playing, we've got to play well. We've got one game we need to win."
-- Detroit coach Mike Babcock

DETROIT -- Given their rich playoff history and the large number of postseason games they've played this decade, it's almost impossible to believe that it's been seven years since the Detroit Red Wings last played in a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That's about to change.

Due to a 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night, the teams will play the deciding game of their Western Conference semifinal on Thursday at Joe Louis Arena.

And even though it's been a while, the Red Wings -- who landed at Detroit Metro Airport on Wednesday around 5 p.m. Eastern time -- are confident it will be just like riding a bike.

"For a franchise that's been in the playoffs how many years in a row and whatnot, it's odd that we don't have more Game 7s," said Red Wings forward Kirk Maltby, who has been with the club since 1996. "But we've definitely been in a lot of situations that are kind of Game 7-like. Just because you have home ice or you have the experience, it doesn't guarantee anything. But hopefully it at least allows us to get settled and ready to go."

The Red Wings were ready to go the last time they played a Game 7 -- when they torched Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche in a 7-0 victory to capture the Western Conference title on May 31, 2002. Tomas Holmstrom scored on the team's first shot and Sergei Fedorov made it 2-0 just 1:20 later. The Wings never looked back.

"It doesn't seem like it's been seven years," said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who was a member of that 2002 team, which went on to win the Stanley Cup. "We have some good memories from the last time we played. It'll be a hard game tomorrow night. We have to be prepared to play and we have to be very focused, too."

They'll have to be to oust these pesky Ducks, who have managed to go 7-5 this postseason despite being outshot in each of their 12 games. The Wings outshot Anaheim 18-6 in the third period, but were held off the scoreboard until Johan Franzen notched his 19th goal in his last 20 playoff games with 2:25 remaining. Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller finished with 38 saves, including a gem on Pavel Datsyuk an instant before the final buzzer.

"It should be exciting … Game 7's are always a lot of fun," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "It's a good opportunity for us. We played all year to have home-ice advantage. If we want to keep playing, we've got to play well. We've got one game we need to win."

It's a situation like the one Detroit faces on Thursday night for which finishing the regular season with 112 points really comes in handy. While the Wings will need to be on their game to come away with a victory, they sure do feel fortunate that they'll be playing their deciding game at Joe Louis Arena.

"There's no guarantees or anything, but obviously you're in a situation where it's winner take all," Maltby said. "If you have a choice, obviously you'd rather have it in your home rink."

And once the puck drops, every shift will be crucial. It's a situation that Henrik Zetterberg has yet to experience, but one he is certainly looking forward to.

"It's my first Game 7 … it's exciting," said Zetterberg, who has 11 points in nine games this postseason. "I'm looking forward to it. This is why you play hockey. You want to play important games, and we've got one coming up tomorrow."

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