The Detroit Red Wings weren’t extended in the Western Conference finals, but they did encounter health problems that could be a factor against the Penguins in the next round.
Center Pavel Datsyuk was sidelined in the final three games of the series, while defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom sat out the final two encourters.
Lidstrom will play in the Stanley Cup Finals opener on Saturday night, but the status of Datsyuk and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson is uncertain at this time.
Datsyuk and Lidstrom may be the two most important players on the Red Wings roster.
Detroit is one of the deepest teams in the league, a fact that was apparent in the 2-1 overtime clincher against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night, but it would be hard-pressed to beat the Penguins with both players at significantly less than their best.
Because there will be no open date between Games 1 and 2 this weekend, the Red Wings could be vulnerable especially on the back line at the start of the series.
Lidstrom was out of action because of what was said to be a lower-body injury. Ericsson sat out Game 5 after he underwent an emergency appendectomy earlier in the day. Forty-seven year-old Chris Chelios suited up in place of Lidstrom in the final two games.
In Game 5, the Red Wings played four defensemen primarily, as Niklas Kronwall, Brett Lebda, Brian Rafalski and Brad Stuart each logged at least 25 minutes apiece.
If the Penguins continue to apply pressure in the attack zone, then the results in the first two games may be much different than when the two team squared off a year ago.