Detroit leads series, 2-1
updated: 7:56 p.m. – Pavel Datsyuk participated in the pregame skate but will not play tonight.
From Earlier ***Game 4 a must win for the Penguins***
Morning Buzz — Pittsburgh has taking the ice as the team begins their morning preparations for game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The focus around the room is that this game is a elimination game for the Penguins.
Of the 44 teams who have got out to a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Finals, 41 of those teams have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh knows how important this game is.
“We know how big this Game 4 is now,” Penguins winger Max Talbot said.
* A hot topic right now heading into game 4 is special teams. The league has told officials to call the games closer after what went on in games 1 & 2.
Pittsburgh is 3-for-6 on the power play in the series and the Red Wings rank 14th out of 16 playoffs teams on the penalty kill.
The Red Wings are currently 71.4% on the PK and have given up 18 power play goals in 19 playoff games. Their penalty kill has been mediocre all season and it’s not just going to improve because it’s the Stanley Cup Finals.
The addition of Kris Draper to lineup will not change anything when it comes to the Red Wings penalty kill, even though Draper is regarded as the teams top penalty killer. Draper is just like Kurt Maltby, on the downside of his career.
* M.V.P. Finalist Pavel Datsyuk has deemed himself available to play as he will participate in the teams pregame skate. It will be Datsyuk’s call, not the coaching staff’s call as to whether he will play tonight.
Datsyuk’s skating is improving and he is feeling much more comfortable with the boot he has to wear to protect his foot.
What you won’t see Datsyuk doing is playing much center. We’re hearing he will likely play wing. Overall though, he is clearly not 100% but Pittsburgh is preparing that Datsyuk will play.
What to Watch For
1. Are the Red Wings wearing down? – There is a strong belief that the Red Wings are starting to wear down. There are a number of players battling through injuries and tonight’s game will mark the 4th game in 6 nights.
Pittsburgh must set the tone early and be effective on the forecheck and try to wear down the Red Wings.
What Pittsburgh has to worry about, this is the kind of game in the past where Detroit’s killer instinct usually comes through like it did last year in game 4.
2. Evgeni Malkin – Extra time in the weight room and better commitment to eating right, has led to Evgeni Malkin being stronger and more fit for a long playoff run.
Malkin has been the most dominant forward in the series, recording 5 pts in 3 games. Malkin will look to record his 12 multi-point game.
Pittsburgh will Malkin and Sidney Crosby to have dominating performances tonight. Crosby has to bury some of the chances he has been getting.
3. Can Pittsburgh establish a net presence? – Pittsburgh feels to the key winning game 3 was finally establishing a presence in front of the net. Ruslan Fedotenko, Bill Guerin and Matt Cooke did a solid job of driving to the net and they were able to cause some traffic in front of Osgood.
Guerin provided a screen on Osgood which set up Sergei Gonchar’s game winning goal.
4. Marian Hossa – Secondary scoring has fueled the Red Wings 2-1 series lead. Still, they are getting significant contributions from star forwards Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg.
One player they have been waiting for to breakout is Marian Hossa. Hossa has yet to record a goal in the Finals and has struggled without Pavel Datsyuk.
Hossa has scored two goals each in all games 4’s throughout the playoffs.
5. Penguins Third Line – The unit of Matt Cooke (-3) – Jordan Staal (-7) – Tyler Kennedy (-5) have a combined plus/minus rating of -15.
Those numbers are absurd as the unit has been inconsistent throughout the playoffs.
One thing for certain though, is that when the Penguins third line is clicking on all cylinders, the Penguins are usually successful.
In game 3, Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy played well. Cooke was second on the team with 5 hits and was the playing the role of an agitator behind the play. Both players should be able to build off of Tuesday night’s performance.
Jordan Staal also showed some improvement in game 3.
*** I guess I am a little behind the times here but I have finally set up a twitter account after my advertising consultant has been pressuring me to do so for the past month.
You can start following updates at twitter.com/Insidepghsports