Stanley Cup Finals: Game Four Preview

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Stanley Cup Finals: Game Four Preview
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Penguins will attempt to even the best of seven Stanley Cup Finals series at two games apiece, when they host the defending champion Detroit Red Wings at Mellon Arena tonight.

The Penguins have renewed confidence after a hard fought 4-2 win over the Wings on Tuesday night.  Maxime Talbot was the star for the Penguins, scoring twice, including the clincher into an empty net. 

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had a solid outing and was especially sharp in the second period, when Detroit out shot their hosts 10-3.  His defense upped their play on Tuesday and showed a willingness to sacrifice their bodies as well.  Overall the Penguins blocked 18 shots in the game compared to only five by Detroit.

Art Ross Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin had three assists and now leads the playoffs with 33 points.  He has recorded a point on five of the club's six goals so far in the championship series.

Penguins' captain Sidney Crosby notched his first point of the finals, an assist on Sergei Gonchar's game winner in the third period, and the challengers will be hoping Sid the Kid is ready to break out.  He did come up big in the face-off circle in game two, winning 63 percent of his face-offs (12 for19).

Crosby spent 45 minutes on Wednesday with line-mates Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz watching video of every shift he played during game three, looking for something to increase his offensive production.

Although they didn't figure in the scoring, one of the Penguins most effective units on Tuesday was the line of Jordan Staal, Tyler Kennedy, and Matt Cooke, who seeminly caused havoc for the Detroit defense on every shift.

For the Red Wings, 2008 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Henrik Zetterberg had another monster game, scoring once and setting up the second Detroit goal with a beautiful cross-ice pass to Johan Franzen.

The talented Swede logged an amazing 24:19 in ice time, trailing only Wings' captain Nick Lidstrom at 26:40. Gonchar and Crosby led the Pens with 22:29 and 22:19 respectively. He also one 58 percent of his face-offs, trailing only Crosby and teammate Valtteri Filpula (10 for 16) in that category.

Red Wings' goalie Chris Osgood was just good on Tuesday, not spectacular as he'd been in games one and two.  Still, of the three goals he surrendered, only Kris Letang's first period slap shot that beat him through the legs could be in anyway blamed on the three-time Stanley Cup champion.

The Wings have to be a little worried about their penalty killing after surrendering two goals on three chances in game three. 

Perhaps the perfect illustration of their problems came on Pittsburgh's game winner when the Penguins had numerous chances and controlled the puck for a minute and twenty seconds before Sergei Gonchar potted the decisive goal.

The defending champs might get a big lift tonight with the return of Hart Trophy nominee Pavel Datsyuk.  The Russian center missed the last five games with an ankle injury but looked good in practice on Wednesday.  It appears all systems are go for a return to the lineup for game four.

Datysuk should help the Wings at both ends of the ice and maybe his return will get winger Marian Hossa going on a more consistent basis.  Hossa has displayed dominance on rather rare occasions during these playoffs, but has also disappeared at times.

Checking center Kris Draper is also expected to be available for the Wings, who are hoping to make the 2009 finals a carbon copy of the 2008 championship series and head back home with a 3-1 lead.

Game Four Prediction:  The momentum would appear to be with the Penguins after the victory in game three and neutral hockey fans everywhere are hoping for a Pittsburgh victory in game four to extend this entertaining series.

Look for Sidney Crosby to break out of his scoring funk tonight and for the teams to head back to Detroit knotted at two games apiece.  Penguins 5, Red Wings 3.

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