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Penguins Report: Pittsburgh Prepared for Stanley Cup Re-Match

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
The last time Pittsburgh played at Detroit, they triumphed in one of the most dramatic Stanley Cup Final games in the common era. The Penguins erased a 3-1 deficit for a 4-3 victory on Petr Sykora’s game-winning goal at 9:57 of the third overtime, the fifth longest game in Stanley Cup Final history. But there was no return trip to Detroit for Game Seven as the Red Wings won in Pittsburgh to days later to earn their 11th title in franchise history.

In a Stanley Cup rematch, the Red Wings host Pittsburgh on Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena at 7 p.m., the first meeting between the two clubs since the Penguins watched Detroit raised the Stanley Cup at Mellon Arena.

“It’s probably burned in all our memories, at least the guys that were here, for sure,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “At the same time, it’s another season. We’re just taking it as a non-conference opponent and its two points. Certainly there’s some history for those of us who were here. You have to turn the page.”

“(For) myself, it’s the next game,” forward Evgeni Malkin said. “Not Detroit, just the next game. They’re a good team. It (will be) a good game.”

Even though the Penguins understand that this is a new season, it will be hard to ignore the memories evoked from playing Detroit.

“I think everybody that played in that series last year will have a little bit more excitement when we get into the game there,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “You have to be able to control those emotions and just play the game the way we’ve been able to the last few games. It really is just another regular season game.”

As if the drama of a championship rematch wasn’t enough, in the ensuing offseason Detroit signed Penguins star forward Marian Hossa. The Red Wings may be even better with Hossa in the lineup.

“In the new league without hooking, if you give those guys, Hossa and (Pavel) Datsyuk, some room to skate with the puck they’re going to make plays and score goals,” Sykora said.

With the extensive experience from last season’s playoff series, the Penguins know what to expect from the Red Wings. Other than Hossa, Detroit’s roster is practically the same as last year, and they’re technique hasn’t changed.

They have the same system. They’re the same core. We have to ready for them. - Maxime Talbot
“They have the same system; they’re the same core,” said Max Talbot, who scored the tying goal in the last matchup in Detroit with 34.3 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. “We have to ready for them.”

The foundation of their system is built around quick forwards and accurate breakout passes from the defensemen.

“The key to their system is that they have great defensemen,” Sykora said. “They don’t just throw the puck away. They make a play. We have to either keep the puck away from their D or put the pressure on them, not to make those beautiful passes through the middle because once they make that first pass they have so much skill and speed.

“I think the key is to put pressure on their D and don’t let those passes through the neutral zone. I think if we do that, we’ll have a chance.”

The Penguins understand that the Red Wings are the heavy favorite to win back-to-back titles. Not to mention, as defending champions the road to the Stanley Cup will go through Detroit. But for now, this game will be a measuring stick of how well Pittsburgh matches up with the Red Wings.

“It’s our goal this year to win the Stanley Cup,” Talbot said. “We might have to go against them in the end. Right now they’re a good team and it’s just one game.”

Pittsburgh held its morning skate at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday afternoon. Head coach Michel Therrien has reverted back to the line combinations he used before Saturday's shakeup against the N.Y. Islanders. The combinations will be: Miroslav Satan-Sidney Crosby-Talbot; Ruslan Fedotenko-Malkin-Sykora; Matt Cooke-Jordan Staal-Tyler Kennedy; Pascal Dupuis-Mike Zigomanis-Eric Godard.

Against the Islanders, Staal centered between Malkin and Sykora while Zigomanis was elevated to the third line between Kennedy and Cooke. Talbot and Fedotenko alternated the spot alongside Crosby and Satan.

The scratches for the game are Paul Bissonnette and Mark Eaton.

Marc-Andre Fleury will get the start in goal.

> The Penguins traded for Zigomanis earlier this season because, among other reason, of his ability to win faceoffs. Zigomanis is currently the NHL’s best faceoff man with a 64.2 winning percentage.


“It’s a team thing,” Zigomanis said. “Make sure your linemates are aware of what you’re doing. Once you start playing, they know what you’re going to do against certain guys. I think half of all draws are up for grabs and it’s usually the other four guys on the ice (that determine who wins).”

Zigomanis topped the NHL list after not even being on it week ago. That’s because you can’t qualify for the rankings unless you average at least 10 draws per game. So who did Zigomanis bump for the top billing? That would be his former teammate Rod Brind’Amour, the man that Zigomanis studied to hone his faceoff craft. 

“I watched Rod Brind’Amour and Yanic Perreault,” Zigomanis said. “I was lucky enough to play with both of those centerman. They’re two of the all-time great faceoff men. I watched those guys a little bit, day in and day out, watch what they do.”

Zigomanis faceoff prowess has rubbed off on the team. Pittsburgh ranks sixth in the NHL with a 52.8 winning percentage. A vast improvement over the club’s dead-last ranking last season. He has worked one-on-one with other Penguins centers to help them improve their faceoff results.

“If a guy wants to work on them, I’ll go out there early and help a guy,” Zigomanis said. But he also understands that it takes five players to win a faceoff.

“I rely on my teammates a lot,” he said. “I think half of my draws are results of team hunger-ness.”

Jen Bullano contributed to this report.

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