A well-rested Detroit Red Wings team opens the NHL playoff semi-finals today against Dallas with relaxed confidence while Pittsburgh and Philadelphia face a bitter battle.
Tensions will mount in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference and Western Conference because the winners meet later this month in the Stanley Cup final, but how the teams got to the semi-finals could prove critical as well.
Detroit swept Colorado in the second round and will face the Stars on six days of rest while Dallas ousted San Jose in six games, beating the Sharks 2-1 on Monday in a grueling four-overtime thriller that went five hours, 14 minutes.
“It’s always an advantage for the team that played more recently in the first 20 minutes,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “After that, it is definitely good to have the rest.”
Chris Chelios, a 46-year-old Red Wings defenseman, missed the final game against Colorado with a leg injury but said he is ready to face the Stars in game one today.
The Eastern Conference semi-final pits Pennsylvania rivals Philadelphia and Pittsburgh against each other, each side of the Keystone state backing its best in a grudge match of division foes.
Philadelphia won five of eight regular-season games over the Penguins, but Pittsburgh played better when Canadian star Sidney Crosby was off the injured list and alongside Russian 47-goal scorer Evgeni Malkin in the lineup.
Flyers defender Kimmo Timonen will likely be asked to mark Malkin, who takes hits and keeps on coming.