|DET||0||1||2||(0 - 0)||3|
|PIT||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||0|
PITTSBURGH -- The last time the Red Wings visited Mellon Arena, they hoisted the Stanley Cup for the 11th time in franchise history.
On Sunday, the defending champions return to Pittsburgh for the first time since their victory in Game 6 of the finals to face the Penguins in a matchup of clubs on different ends of their respective playoff races.
It's been more than eight months since June 4, when playoff MVP Henrik Zetterberg scored the Cup-clincher early in the third period of Detroit's 3-2 victory at Pittsburgh.
With their sights set on a repeat, the Red Wings signed forward Marian Hossa and goaltender Ty Conklin, who both helped the Penguins reach the finals last season.
Both additions have played well for Detroit (34-11-7) - second in the Western Conference and winners of three in a row. Conklin has outplayed Chris Osgood and could start in his return to Pittsburgh.
The Penguins (26-23-5), meanwhile, have won two in a row, but are 10th in the East and need to make a run in the next two months to return to postseason play.
Throw in that Pittsburgh rallied for a 7-6 overtime victory in Detroit on Nov. 11, and this rematch at Mellon won't lack for drama.
"There are a lot of story lines for sure," Sidney Crosby told the Penguins' official Web site. "For us, we don't want to really look too far into it."
Detroit has rebounded after losing five in a row to close out January. The Red Wings looked like a Cup contender Saturday, scoring five first-period goals en route to an 8-3 home win over Edmonton. Hossa, Pavel Datsyuk, and Brian Rafalski each had a goal and assist, while Niklas Kronwall added three assists.
Conklin made 23 saves for Detroit, which has 17 goals in its last three games - three more than it scored during the five-game skid. Conklin is 17-7-1 on the season, but hasn't faced the Penguins since beating them 4-3 in 2003, while with Edmonton.
Osgood, who was in net for Game 6, has been rotating with Conklin. He is 17-4-6 with a 3.29 goals-against average, but matched a career high for goals allowed against Pittsburgh in November.
Though Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are among the NHL's top offensive players, Pittsburgh likely misses Hossa, who has 29 goals and 25 assists this season - including five goals during Detroit's three-game winning streak.
"He's been a tremendous addition for us," Zetterberg told the Red Wings' official Web site. "He's one of those guys that really can turn nothing into a goal."
Hossa had two assists against the Penguins in November, while Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom each scored a goal. Holmstrom, though, will miss this contest and up to five weeks due to a hernia injury.
Jordan Staal had a hat trick for Pittsburgh in the November meeting. Crosby added a goal with two assists and Malkin had a goal and an assist as the Penguins scored four third-period goals to force overtime and eventually beat Detroit.
"There was a lot of emotion in that game with what happened last year," Crosby said. "I don't think that's disappeared. It's probably going to be the same way (Sunday)."
Crosby had a goal and two assists while Kris Letang scored twice in Pittsburgh's 4-1 home win over Columbus on Friday. The Penguins have won consecutive games for only the second time since winning a season-high six in a row from Nov. 1-15.
Malkin has a league-leading 80 points, including 11 (six goals, five assists) in his last seven games.
|Feb 08 '09||DET 3 at PIT 0||P. Datsyuk|
|Nov 11 '08||PIT 7 at DET 6 - ot||R. Fedotenko|