-- You can never have enough experience at this time of year, and it’s safe to say the Detroit Red Wings
aren't lacking in that department.
The hope now is that it shines through on Sunday night, when they host the Anaheim Ducks
in Game 5 of this Western Conference semifinal at Joe Louis Arena.
The series is currently tied at two games apiece following Detroit's 6-3 win at Anaheim on Thursday night. Now it's a best-of-three, and the Red Wings -- who racked up 112 points during the regular season -- managed to restore home-ice advantage with their Game 4 victory.
Things began to shift in Detroit's direction in Game 4 once Babcock reunited star forwards Henrik Zetterberg
and Pavel Datsyuk
on the same line. That allowed Marian Hossa
to skate with Johan Franzen
and Valtteri Filppula
-- a line that generated one scoring chance after another in the victory.
Zetterberg and Datsyuk skated together during Saturday's practice and are expected to be on the same line again for Game 5. Tomas Holmstrom
will skate on the other wing.
"We've played with each other many times," Zetterberg said. "It's not tough to go right back and find each other right away. If that's going to be the case, we're looking forward to it."
Regardless of the lines, though, the Wings know how crucial it is to get off to a better start. Giving up another early goal would certainly not help their cause.
"I think determination and focus and execution are so very important," Babcock said. "As veteran a team as we have, we gave up a goal again last game in the first shift. The night before, we were tentative and nervous early. It just goes to show you that every year's different. Some teams just have a way, to when it's on the line and the series is on the line, you have a way to survive. That's what it is to me at playoff time. It's just survival and giving yourself another opportunity to play."
It's up to them to make the most of it.
"We want to make sure we have our best game of the series," said Wings goalie Chris Osgood
, who gave up a goal to Corey Perry
42 seconds into Game 4 but settled down and made 25 saves. "Every game's been tough. We know it's a big game for us and we want to make sure we hold our home ice and give us a chance to go back to Anaheim and win (the series)."
While Detroit possesses five players who have been here for the four Stanley Cups won in the last 11 years, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock won't gloat about the tremendous amount of experience in his dressing room. After all, Anaheim is just two years removed from winning a championship of its own.
"Experience is always beneficial, but they're a veteran team, too," Babcock said. "(Scott) Niedermayer's their captain and he's won four Cups. Both are very proven teams at this time of year. To me, there's no edge in that department. It's just a matter of who plays better."
Despite another sluggish start, Detroit was the better team in Game 4. Marian Hossa
ended a mini-slump with a pair of goals, while Johan Franzen
had two goals and an assist.
The hope now, of course, is the momentum from Thursday night made its way on to the long flight back to Motown.
"Momentum is important," Hossa said. "We have to take the momentum from Anaheim. We haven't been starting games real well."
A victory on Sunday would give the Red Wings an opportunity to close out this tight series in Anaheim on Tuesday. It's an opportunity they'd rather not pass up, considering they need to win two of the next three in order to advance to the conference final.
"We're basically starting from zero again," Hossa said. "The series is tied. Now it's a huge game because the team (that wins) is going to have a big advantage. We just have to make sure we're real prepared."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.