DETROIT – Unable to score in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, the Pittsburgh Penguins have shifted gears and will now go with the Big Bang Theory.
Georges Laraque is out and veteran Gary Roberts is in.
Roberts’ best before date has long since passed, but he is still capable of dishing out big hits and that, more than anything else, is why he’ll play in Game 2 after being a healthy scratch in the series opener.
Asked what he can bring to the table at this stage of his career, the 42-year-old left winger said: “I’m not about to start changing the way that I play at this stage of my career. They are a quick, skilled team and they are hard to hit, but we still have to go out and try to hit them.”
Roberts, who had seasons of 53 and 41 goals earlier in his career, will ultimately bow out as a fourth-liner, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make an impact. The Penguins were decidedly passive in the first game.
Laraque, their tough guy, simply doesn’t skate well enough for the Penguins to afford to have him in the lineup. If he gets back in at this stage, it will only be because he is one of coach Michel Therrien’s favorite players.
I have watched Roberts play hockey and lacrosse since he was 16 years old, and I have not seen many more intense or dedicated players. So it was really no surprise that I heard he blew up when he found out he’d be sitting out Game 1. That game had barely ended when whispers of Roberts being inserted into the lineup for Game 2 began.
Averaging just less than 10 minutes of ice time a game and having scored two goals (both in Game 1 against Ottawa in the first round), Roberts won’t make Detroit defensemen lose sleep over having to cover him. Now chasing a loose puck into the corner with Roberts on their tail just may cause them to toss and turn through the night.
Roberts is expected to play left wing on the Penguins’ fourth line with Adam Hall at center and Jarkko Ruutu on right wing. The Penguins’ other lines are expected to be: 1. Sidney Crosby between Ryan Malone and Marian Hossa; 2. Evgeni Malkin between Maxime Talbot and Petr Sykora and 3. Jordan Staal between Pascal Dupuis and Tyler Kennedy.
Roberts knows his best asset is his fearlessness and he’ll ram hard into any player who elects to carry the puck. Don’t say we didn’t warn you, Nicklas Lidstrom.
* You have to hand it to Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury. After falling flat on his face as he raced out to the ice to start Game 1, Fleury might have wanted to dig a deep hole and bury himself in it. Instead, the recreated the scene when he ventured onto the ice for the start of practice Sunday. It was quite humorous, really.
* Don’t be surprised if Detroit winger Johan Franzen is inserted back into the lineup sooner rather than later. He practiced hard yesterday and looked good. Some have suggested Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is superstitious and might be inclined to stick with his same lineup as long as it is winning, but that would be silly. If Franzen, who has 12 goals in 11 games, can play, then he should play.
* The team that wins Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final has won the Cup 53 of 68 seasons. The last time a team lost Game 1 and then rebounded to win the Cup was 2004 when the Tampa Bay Lightning turned the trick.
THN senior writer Mike Brophy is on the road following the Stanley Cup final and will be filing daily reports until a champion is crowned. To read his other entries, click HERE.
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