|Angry Roberts to sit out Game 1 for Penguins|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 23 May 2008 14:49|
Roberts' 19th NHL season has been a difficult one, from the broken leg he suffered days before the Winter Classic against Buffalo, to other nagging leg injuries that also forced him to the sideline.
Once he finally did get back midway through the second round of the playoffs, a bout with pneumonia knocked him out of the conference finals against Philadelphia.
Roberts said he felt good physically Friday, on his birthday, but he was clearly being careful with his words. He had already been told he wouldn't play Saturday and planned to have a talk with coach Michel Therrien to find out why.
``It's not the time for me to complain,'' Roberts said. ``I've enjoyed being around this group of guys. I've had a trying year, health wise, not the year I wanted to have. It's not about me now, it's about the team. One thing I can say is if I get the chance, I won't let my teammates down.''
Chris Chelios, Detroit's 46-year-old defenseman, likely also will be scratched in the series opener due to a leg injury.
Chelios, who while with Montreal played against Calgary's Roberts in the 1989 Stanley Cup finals, sat out the Red Wings' clinching victory in the Western Conference finals at Dallas on Monday night.
``Whether it's superstition or not, they're not changing,'' Chelios said. ``We played a really good game to close out the last series. I'm good to go. I'm ready to go.''
NOT SO FAMILIAR: In the rotating NHL schedule, the Penguins and Red Wings didn't play in the regular season. With changes already in place for next season, this could be the last finals series that pits unfamiliar foes against each other with the Stanley Cup on the line.
Following the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, the NHL returned with a schedule that heavily favored intradivision games at the expense of contests between the conferences.
For the past three seasons, teams played only 10 games outside the conference - facing one division all at home, another all on the road, and skipping the third altogether.
The Atlantic Division and Central went their separate ways this season, but that will soon change. Next season, every team will face the other 29 at least once and will take on three teams from the opposite conference home and away.
The last time the Penguins and Red Wings played, Detroit earned a 2-0 road victory on Oct. 7, 2006.
Defenseman Brian Rafalski, in his first season with the Red Wings after a long stint with the New Jersey Devils, was able to provide some scouting tips from his days back East.
``It helps having a player who knows more about their tendencies and their players than most of us do, haven't played against them,'' fellow defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said.
Factoring in all pro sports, teams from Detroit and Pittsburgh haven't met in the postseason since the 1909 World Series. Back then, shortstop Honus Wagner and the Pittsburgh Pirates topped Ty Cobb's Detroit Tigers 4-3.
SLIM PICKINGS: While the Penguins have five players on their roster who were chosen within the first five picks of the NHL draft, the Red Wings have only three that were selected in the entire first round.
And of those three, defenseman Niklas Kronwall was the only one taken by the Red Wings - going 29th in the 2000 draft. Detroit right winger Daniel Cleary was chosen 13th by Chicago in 1997, and defenseman Brad Stuart went third to San Jose a year later.
Pittsburgh's draft success and fortunate finishes in the lottery are key reasons why the Penguins have gone from the worst record in the Eastern Conference to the Stanley Cup finals in a two-year span.
The Penguins have 13 first-round picks on their team.
Team captain Sidney Crosby went first overall after a league-wide lottery right after the lockout in 2005. The Penguins won that prize two years after they chose goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with the No. 1 pick. In between, Pittsburgh used the No. 2 selection on MVP finalist Evgeni Malkin.
The story doesn't end there. The Penguins picked fifth in 2002 and chose defenseman Ryan Whitney, and then took 19-year-old forward Jordan Staal at No. 2 in 2006.
AGE VS. EXPERIENCE: What will win out: The Detroit Red Wings' vast Stanley Cup experience, or the Pittsburgh Penguins' talent on young legs?
Of those who have played at least one postseason game this season, the Red Wings' average age is 32.3. Pittsburgh checks in at 27.9 years.
Detroit has 10 previous Stanley Cup winners, combining for 23 championships on its roster. Pittsburgh lags there, too, with three previous champions and four titles.
``I didn't even realize they were that young until I started hearing their ages,'' said 35-year-old Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood, who won back-to-back titles with Detroit in 1997 and '98. ``They are pretty young, but they're great players still. I don't think that's going to be much of a difference.
``We do have the experience, which we lean on often in the playoffs.''