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Wings' patience leads to kids' production

NHL.com @NHL

PITTSBURGH (AP) -In a matter of weeks, young players Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm and Jonathan Ericsson went from being relatively unknown members of the Red Wings' farm system to major contributors during Detroit's playoff run.

One reason the Red Wings repeatedly are successful in bringing up players who are ready to contribute immediately is the organization's reluctance to rush players to the NHL.

"That's a big part of (general manager) Kenny Holland's philosophy," coach Mike Babcock said Monday. "He talked about it as a minor league goaltender for his career. He hated it when guys would come in and get jobs all the time. It drove him crazy. He said when he'd be a general manager, that would never happen."

There's another reason the Red Wings don't promote players until they are mature and settled down, Babcock said.

"When you get kids here before they're ready, they make too much money too soon and they don't do anything for you," he said.

By coincidence, Abdelkader is the only player to score his first NHL goal in a Stanley Cup final game since Pittsburgh's Jim Paek in 1991. Paek is an assistant coach at Grand Rapids, the Red Wings' top farm club, and worked with Abdelkader this season.

Pittsburgh shouldn't be surprised that a Red Wings player who spent little time with them during the season has made an impact in the finals. Last year, Helm didn't score while playing in seven regular-season games, but had a goal during Detroit's 4-3 overtime loss to Pittsburgh in Game 5 of the finals.

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FRUSTRATION - OR DETERMINATION: What others might see as frustration, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma sees as determination.

Each of his stars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, showed some exasperation while the Penguins were losing the first two games of the finals in Detroit by 3-1 scores on Saturday and Sunday. Crosby screamed at former teammate Marian Hossa and used his stick on Kirk Maltby's foot in Game 1, while Malkin fought with Henrik Zetterberg at the end of Game 2.

"You worry as a coach about frustration, and frustration is when you can't let go of previous events," Bylsma said. "I think, for the most part, our guys have been able to. They're emotionally attached. They want to do well, they want to drive. Detroit is doing a good job of resisting that and being on our guys."

Because Pittsburgh gets to make the final line change at home, Bylsma is certain to separate Crosby from Zetterberg, which might create more room - and less frustration - for Crosby.

"We may give him different looks depending on the situation," Bylsma said.

Even with his rooting interest, Detroit coach Mike Babcock has found the Crosby vs. Zetterberg "game within a game" matchup to be intriguing.

"Fantastic to watch just as a fan of the sport, with how hard they're competing against each other," Babcock said. "It's great to see in (Pittsburgh's Jordan) Staal and Helm, and what a battle it's been thus far."

Last spring, Crosby was held without a point in the first two games in Detroit, but scored two goals as Pittsburgh got back into the series by winning 3-2 in Game 3 at home. The Penguins went on to lose in six games.

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DATSYUK UPDATE: Hart Trophy finalist Pavel Datsyuk, who has missed five games with a foot injury, is likely to remain out of Detroit's lineup in Game 3. Datsyuk was the NHL's fourth-leading scorer with 97 points during the season.

Babcock said the most recent exam of Datsyuk's foot was encouraging.

"Everything seems to be good," Babcock said after the Red Wings arrived in Pittsburgh on Monday. "So now it's a matter of when he's ready."

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NO CHANGES NECESSARY: Four-time Stanley Cup winner Kris Draper of Detroit is healthy enough to play in Game 3, so it won't be his groin injury that likely keeps him off the ice.

"I'm not a big-change guy, especially when things are going good," Babcock said. "We'll see."

If the Red Wings put Draper in the lineup, they would likely have to scratch one of their young players such as Abdelkader or Ville Leino.

"Do I want to play? Absolutely," said Draper, who has appeared in four playoff games this spring. "It doesn't get any better than this, it's the greatest time of year. But all I'm going to do is support whatever the call is either way."

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TWO GOALS, AND A FIRST: Abdelkader is the first player in NHL history to score goals in Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup finals after not previously scoring an NHL goal, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ... No Detroit player had a minus rating in Game 2. ... The Red Wings are 11-0 when leading after two periods. ... Abdelkader said playing two games in two nights - the first time that's happened in the Cup finals in 54 years - wasn't as grueling as playing three games in three nights. Many minor league teams do that to squeeze in as many games as possible on weekends.

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AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Detroit contributed to this report.

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