DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings earned a long weekend off after sweeping Colorado, making at least one child very happy.
“My eight-year-old daughter, Kennedi, told me we had to win Game 4 so that I could go to her figure-skating performances because I rarely can go,” forward Kris Draper said Monday. “She had four and I made three of them. “So, we had time off and I spent almost all of it at a rink.”
The Red Wings were back on their skates Monday – four days after eliminating the Avalanche – and were relieved to finally know who they’ll face in the Western Conference finals.
The fifth-seeded Dallas Stars got past the San Jose Sharks in the eighth-longest game in NHL history, winning 2-1 in the fourth overtime of Game 6.
Some players stayed up to watch the game that ended after 2 a.m. and some woke up to find out that Dallas was up next.
Detroit doesn’t know if it will be rested or rusty Thursday night in Game 1 against the Stars.
But the NHL’s top-seeded team is hoping the long break will help at some point in its quest to return to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since winning it all in 2002.
“I’ve always felt with a layoff like this, if you go deep into a series, that’s where hopefully it’ll pay off a little bit,” defenceman Chris Chelios said. “We’re healthy and looking pretty good.”
That’s an understatement.
The Red Wings aren’t slowed by any significant injuries and they’ve been unstoppable since goaltender Chris Osgood replaced Dominik Hasek, winning six straight games against the Avs and Nashville Predators after the opening series was tied 2-all.
Johan Franzen already has 11 goals through two rounds, setting a Red Wings record for goals in one post-season. He had nine goals against Colorado, breaking another mark in the storied franchise’s record books for goals in a series.
The player known affectionately as Mule by his teammates – and a growing number of fans – is hoping the rest doesn’t make him rusty.
“It could be both good and bad, resting this long,” Franzen said. “You get out of the rhythm a little bit, but at the same time you heal up your body.”
Franzen has turned Detroit’s second line into a top priority for opponents, but he insisted teams will still focus on the top forwards: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom.
At the other end of the rink, the Red Wings are playing well with five-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom leading a defence that is helping Osgood permit 1 1/2 goals a game.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock expects Dallas to have an edge in the series – briefly.
“It’s always an advantage for the team that played more recently in the first 20 minutes,” Babcock said. “After that it’s definitely good to have the rest. We had a bunch of bumps and bruises last series and this gives us the opportunity to feel fresher.
“We’ll be prepared, but in the end it’s going to be will and determination and being relentless.”