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Mind games start early for Penguins and Red Wings at Stanley Cup final

DETROIT - It didn't take long for the mind games to start at the Stanley Cup final.

Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he thought Sidney Crosby was "headhunting" when he hammered Henrik Zetterberg with an open-ice hit in the first period of Game 1. The Penguins captain scoffed at that suggestion Sunday morning.

"I'm not going to get involved in his games," said Crosby. "He can say whatever he wants.

"I don't think I've been known as a head-hunter throughout my career. He's the first one ever to say that so it's pretty interesting stuff."

Another big topic of conversation was a play involving Crosby and Detroit's Kirk Maltby that occurred just after the final buzzer sounded. Crosby says he slashed Maltby because the veteran forward was trash talking the Penguins bench.

Prior to Game 2 on Sunday, Maltby rated the slash a three out of 10 in terms of viciousness.

"I was behind (Tomas Holmstrom), I thought that's who was going to get it," said Maltby. "It was no worse for wear, it was just kind of the fact that he did it. It's behind us."

On-ice chatter has been a big part of Maltby's game since breaking into the NHL. At least one of the Red Wings claimed Crosby doesn't have too much to say to his opponents.

"I don't remember him talking that much on the ice - not to me anyway," said Henrik Zetterberg, who often matches up with Crosby. "There are other players who talk a lot more than him.

"I'm not a big talker either, so if there are conversations, they're very short."


WATCHING AND WAITING: Andreas Lilja is the first to admit he's not much of a spectator.

The Detroit Red Wings defenceman has missed the past three months with a concussion that he suffered in a fight with Nashville's Shea Weber. Even though it's a dangerous injury, Lilja tried to return for Game 5 of the Western Conference final against Chicago when he found out that defencemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson would both be out with injuries of their own.

"It was really frustrating," said Lilja. "I called the doctor right away when those guys were not going to play and I said, 'Any way I can play?' And he said, 'There's no way you can play.'

"Obviously I wanted to help out. It's really, really frustrating to sit and watch the games. But it helps it a lot when the team is playing good and winning. Because if they were losing I'd be even more frustrating because I would think I needed to contribute to help us win."

Even though the 33-year-old has been skating for the past couple weeks, he's still experiencing some headaches.

Lilja is pretty much resigned to the fact that he'll be watching the rest of the Stanley Cup from the press box.

"I'm starting to figure out that maybe it's too late," he said. "We'll see what happens but I'm probably going to aim for next season."


STANLEY CUP SOUVENIR: Every player that scores his first NHL goal keeps the puck. But very few of them look like the one Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader took home after scoring on Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup on Saturday night.

"They're different," said Abdelkader. "They say Stanley Cup final on them. It's really neat."

The goal came in his 12th career NHL game - eight of which have come during this playoff run. The 22-year-old grew up in Muskegon, Mich., and won an NCAA championship with the Michigan State Spartans.

Still, nothing compares to scoring for the Red Wings in the playoffs.

"It's just pretty crazy," said Abdelkader. "The guys were really great, it was just a lot of fun. A night I'll never forget."


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