DETROIT - American defenceman Alex Goligoski was called up by the Pittsburgh Penguins from their AHL farm team on Monday in case Kris Letang couldn't make it back in time for Game 5 of the NHL's championship series.
Letang was in New Brunswick to attend the funeral Monday afternoon of Luc Bourdon, the Vancouver Canucks defenceman who died in a motorcycle crash last Thursday. Coach Michel Therrien didn't want to face the Detroit Red Wings without another defenceman being available given a travel delay stalling Letang's return to Detroit. As it turned out, Letang returned in time and was in uniform for the pre-game warmup.
TWO-WAY THREATS: One of the Red Wings' many strengths is involvement of all five skaters on the ice at any one time in offensive thrusts.
Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart had accumulated 44 scoring points going into Game 5 of the championship series Monday night, which made the offensive contributions of Pittsburgh's six most-used defencemen appear miniscule by comparison. Sergei Gonchar, Hal Gill, Ryan Whitney, Rob Scuderi, Brooks Orpik and Letang had accumulated 26 points.
PLUS-MINUS: Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg's plus-16 led all players in the NHL playoffs in plus-minus ratings going into Game 5 of the championship series Monday night. Zetterberg trailed Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby by one in the points race - 24-23.
The top five players among plus-minus leaders were all Red Wings: after Zetterberg, it was Niklas Kronwall (plus-15), Pavel Datsyuk and Brad Stuart (plus-13), and Johan Franzen (plus-12).
GOOD SLEEP: Mike Babcock was asked Monday morning how he was able to get a good night's sleep with all the excitement surrounding Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final.
"Outstanding," replied the Red Wings coach. "Slept really good."
STAYING ALOOF: Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is like most star athletes in that he avoids studying the musings of media analysts leading up to big games.
He seemed oblivious on the morning of his team's biggest game Monday of reports in Motor City that the outcome was cut and dried: the Wings all the way, with a victory parade all but mapped out.
"I don't really read the papers or listen to the radio," said Crosby. "So, I don't usually have to worry about it.
"But that's part of it. That's part of dealing with the playoffs, and it's the way the media works sometimes. It's just the way it is. We can't control that. We're in a tough situation, there's no doubt, but the only way to get out of it is to keep fighting and that's what we're going to try to do."
MALKIN MISSING: Pittsburgh star Evgeni Malkin had been a non-factor in the championship series going into Game 5, but coach Michel Therrien continued to defend the Russian who Don Cherry has repeatedly criticized for lack of effort during Cherry's "Coach's Corner" segments on Hockey Night In Canada broadcasts.
"The last two games, I thought he worked hard," Therrien said after the morning skate Monday. "But, right now, not much is happening for him.
"He skated well, and why don't we give credit to the Red Wings? They're a good checking team. Both teams, the last two games, they checked really well. There's not much space out there. Not many scoring chances out there. So, sometimes you need a break and, Gino, he needs a break. He needs a loose puck, and we hope it's going to happen tonight."
The Pennsylvania Big Four Lottery draw just before game time produced a winning ticket number of 7171 - Malkin's sweater number repeated twice. More than 2,000 50-cent betters shared US$1.1 million. Penguins front-office staff were hoping it was an omen that Malkin would break loose Monday night.