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Pens Expect Tough Test From Detroit

by Joe Sager / Pittsburgh Penguins

(Playoff Coverage Home)

The Penguins will meet the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final.

And, they’ll see plenty of similarities on the ice as the teams appear to mirror each other.

“They have a really great team and they move the puck well. I think it’s a matchup between two great offensive teams that can play well on both sides of the ice and the goaltenders are playing well,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “I don’t think we see that much difference. They are going to come hard and we are going to come hard.”

The matchup features five of the NHL’s top scorers in the playoffs. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg lead the way with 21 points apiece, while the Penguins’ Marian Hossa and Evgeni Malkin are tied with the Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk for second with 19 points.

“With their depth and the way they’re committed to playing, they have the right mixture of guys,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “We like to think the same thing with the way we’ve built our team. It should be a good matchup.”

While both teams draw plenty of attention for their offensive prowess, they possess solid team defense and two of the top playoff goaltenders in Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury and Detroit’s Chris Osgood.

“I think defensively, they are incredibly underrated. From watching the games, all five guys collapse back; they all come back to the net and help out each other,” Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “They haven’t given up many shots in any of their series. I think that’s probably the strongest part of their game even though nobody talks about it that much.”

Sounds like the Penguins, right?

“I guess in a way. I guess you can categorize us in the same area, as far as our play goes,” Scuderi said. “You can make the comparisons, but we don’t really look at it like that. There are two teams left and the Stanley Cup on the line so that’s all we’re looking at. We’re not really looking at the conferences. That really doesn’t concern us. We just want to win.”

Nevertheless, the Penguins can’t wait to start the series Saturday night. Unlike the previous three series, the team won’t open the series in Pittsburgh. Detroit has home ice advantage as it finished the season with more points.

“It’s nice to play here at Mellon Arena. We feel comfortable here and we’ve played well the last two months and the postseason, so obviously it’d be great if we could start here,” Scuderi said. “But, we’re going to start on the road and I think we’ve played pretty well on the road, too. Overall, we’re not concerned about it and we’re going to try to have a good road game and hopefully get two wins. We’re not thinking too much about home or away. We just want to win the Stanley Cup.”

The Penguins are unbeaten on home ice at 8-0 in the playoffs – a franchise record for consecutive wins in one playoff year. The previous mark of six was set in 1992 as the Penguins won their last six home games of those playoffs en route to the Stanley Cup.

Overall, this Penguins squad has won 16-straight home games and is 17-0-2 in its last 19 home contests. The Penguins’ last home loss came nearly three months ago – Feb. 24 against San Jose in a shootout, 2-1.

They’ve been solid on the road in the playoffs, too, with a 4-2 record, including their first wins of the season at New York’s Madison Square Garden and Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center.

“There’s no difference if we’re starting on the road. It’s no different when we’ve gone to places for Game 3,” Crosby said. “You want to make sure you simplify things when you go on the road, but that’s pretty typical anywhere you go. Especially when two teams are probably going to be playing pretty tight hockey, you have to limit your mistakes.”

Overall, the Penguins expect a formidable challenge heading into Detroit.

“We have to be ready. It’s not going to be easier; it’s going to be a little tougher to start on the road,” Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar said. “But, at the same time, we’re well-prepared for it.”

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