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Notebook: Datsyuk game-time decision

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
PITTSBURGH - Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk practiced again this morning, and stayed on the ice far longer then the rest of the Detroit players.  However, coach Mike Babcock said that he’s still a game-time decision.

“I wouldn't assume anything,” Babcock said.  “Pavel already told me that he's warming up and planning on playing. Now, we've had lots of plans over the years. We'll see what happens.

When asked why he declared Draper ready to go yesterday, but wouldn’t give a definite comment on Datsyuk, Babcock said it’s not his decision.

“I'm not making the decision,” Babcock said.  “When Pav's ready, he's playing. He's making that decision or the doctors and trainers. When he feels he's ready to go, and that foot allows him to have some pop, he's playing.”

The Wings’ coach chuckled a bit when he was asked if he was concerned with Datsyuk’s conditioning.

“I'll take Pavel and his conditioning. I'm not worried about that.”

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma isn’t convinced that Datsyuk is a game-time decision.  He is preparing as though Datsyuk will be in the line-up when the puck drops in a few hours.

“Right now they'd be lying if he wasn't in,” Bylsma said.  “They say he's going to play. At least that's what I've read. So we're planning on him being in the lineup, and possibly more additions as well.”

Captain Nicklas Lidstrom said the return of Draper and hopefully Datsyuk will benefit the Wings in more ways then one.

“It always helps adding some experience with what Pav can do offensively and defensively, and Drapes is a really solid penalty-killer and is great in face-offs,” Lidstrom said.  “So just adding that experience I think is going to help us.”

Lidstrom also credited Datsyuk’s work ethic on the ice as an added bonus for the Wings if he can play.

“When he has the puck, he makes the other team play defense,” Lidstrom said.  “…He works so hard defensively – he’s got a lot of takeaways, working hard and getting the pucks away from the other team. … It just helps having a player like Pav back.”

Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby doesn’t expect the Wings’ attack to change much with Datsyuk in the line-up.

“I think they’re still going to play the same way,” Crosby said.  “He’s a skilled player, he’s a dangerous player, so he’s a guy who has been a threat all season long for the other team. He’s a guy you have to be aware of. As far as their team is concerned, it’s not going to change a whole. He’s a guy you have to be aware out there.”

Babcock making family sacrifices for his team: During his press conference this morning, Babcock was asked how he was doing.  With a laugh, the Wings’ coach said he might be in some trouble when he gets home.

“Feel great, actually, you know. Really good. I'm missing my son's graduation today. I missed my daughter's birthday on Tuesday. So probably not running for Father of the Year, but other than that, everything's good.”

Former assistant coach in town:
Former Wings’ assistant coach Barry Smith was at Mellon Arena today during practice, watching his old team prepare for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Smith served on the Wings’ bench for 11 seasons, coaching with Scotty Bowman and Dave Lewis.  This season, he headed to Russia, where he was the head coach of SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontential Hockey League.  Smith said his experience in Russia was “excellent, real good”.

The former Wings coach said that he tries to catch any Wings’ game that he can, and that he’s been impressed by this year’s squad.

“Super, it’s one of the best ‘team’ teams that I’ve seen,” Smith said.  “They play as a complete group.”

Kunitz tries to slow the Wings:
Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz recorded 11 hits in Game 3, six more then any other player.  Kunitz said that taking the body will slow the Wings attack in the series.

“Well I think we need to stop their progression,” Kunitz said.  “We need to finish our checks and go through them, because they’re patient with the puck, you have to slow things down and have control…you need to finish the body and beat your guy back.  I think it’s something that prolongs them trying to get up the ice.”

Kunitz was a member of the Ducks when they defeated the Red Wings in the 2007 postseason, and he said he has drawn on that experience this year.

“I got hurt in that series but it was something … we were a physical team then, we knew it was going to be a long series, we needed to wear them down.  We knew we needed to stay on our game for as many games as it takes to win.”

“It’s a long grind,” Kunitz said.  “It’s been a long battle, so if you finish that last check, it might be the difference down the road.”

McCarty mentors Griffins: Veteran Darren McCarty may not play in the Stanley Cup finals this year, but that doesn’t mean the team isn’t benefiting from his experience. The young crop of Black Aces traveling with the team during the Wings postseason run have grown under the tutelage of McCarty.

“It helps having Mac around even though he’s not playing,” Lidstrom said. “He’s always cheerful and I think he helps the younger players too by just the experience that he has coming in here and supporting the team.”

McCarty has mentored the younger players all throughout the season in Grand Rapids, taking great pride in watching the guys develop and mature.

 “I think that’s part of our program down there, we’ve had good leadership,” Babcock said. 

Game 4: It seems that Babcock refers to the upcoming game as the most important game at every press conference. Today was no different as he emphasized the need to head back to Detroit up 3-1 in the series.

“It’s not a must-win, but it would help us being up 3-1 than going back to Detroit 2-2,” Lidstrom said. “It’s an important game and the deeper you get into a series, the more important the games get too so you know this game is going to be a big game.”

The Penguins captain knows that his team has to build off of Game 3’s win, but believes tonight’s game is more important.

 “Tonight’s another big one,” Pittsburgh netminder Marc-Andre Fleury said. “I’m sure they’ll be coming out hard because they don’t want the series to go 2-2 so I think it’s going to be a tight game and both teams will play hard.”

Red Wings intern Christy Hammond contributed to this report.
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