DETROIT – Detroit and Dallas, opponents in the NHL’s Western Conference final, have met only three times previously in the playoffs, and the Red Wings won every time.
Most recently, in 1998, Dallas lost the conference final in six games. Mike Modano, Sergei Zubov and Jere Lehtinen remain from that team. Tomas Holmstrom, Nick Lidstrom, Darren McCarty, Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper and Chris Osgood are still with the Red Wings, who went on to win their second championship in a row in ’98.
Detroit took the Stars out in first rounds in 1995 and in 1992, when their franchise was in Minnesota.
Osgood entered the opener with 44 playoff victories and needed three more to match the club record for goalies held by Terry Sawchuk.
Before pulling on the pads Thursday night, Dallas goaltender Marty Turco was winless in 10 career starts in Joe Louis Arena. He hadn’t won a game in the building since April 10, 1998, when the then-Michigan Wolverines star helped a team of U.S. college players defeat their Canadian counterparts 3-1.
Dallas captain Brenden Morrow entered the opener in the lead among all playoff skaters in hits with 66.
“To say he’s a warrior is kind of an understatement at this point with all he’s gone through, the attention he gets, the phyical nature he plays with and the pure intensity,” says Turco. “It’s not easy but it’s something that’s inside him.”
Morrow was a standout in the previous round against San Jose.
“The whole series, he was our first star,” says teammate Steve Ott. “He led the charge physically, offensively, demanding every shift of himself and demanding that other players follow him. What he did was an incredible feat.”
The last team to win the President’s Trophy and the Stanley Cup in the same year was Detroit in 2002. The Red Wings are hoping to do it again.
Al Sobotka was set to return to the pre-game spotlight after the NHL relented on its threat to fine the Red Wings $10,000 if the arena worker if he twirled an octopus over his head.
It’s been a Joe Louis Arena tradition, but the league cracked down during the first round of the playoffs because pieces of the slimy creatures tossed by fans might become embedded in the ice. Sobotka then tried the twirl in the Zamboni entrance, but the league vetoed that, too.
Sobotka got permission before Game 1 of the conference final Thursday night to resume the octopus twirl at the Zamboni entrance so it could be shown to fans on the Jumbotron.
Detroit has 12 Canadians on its active roster, while Dallas has 11 Canadians.