Holmstrom says he'll play, Cleary's a fine option if he can't

Robin Short
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Detroit can claim Stanley Cup with Game 5 win tonight

Red Wings' forward Tomas Holmstrom talks to reporters Sunday in Detroit. Holmstrom missed Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final with a sore hamstring, but maintains he will play in Game 5 tonight in Detroit, where the Wings can claim the Cup with a win over the

DETROIT - Planes zipped around over the Detroit River Sunday as the Red Bull Air Race - sort of Indy Car, but with wings - thrilled nearly three-quarters of a million people lining both sides of the border in Detroit and Windsor, Ont.

Inside Joe Louis Arena, across the street from the river, a handful of the high-flying Wings were darting around the rink's ice during an optional skate.

Tomas Holmstrom wasn't one of them.

Holmstrom was resting his sore hamstring suffered in Game 3, the same injury which kept him out of the lineup in Saturday's 2-1 Detroit win in Game 4, giving the Red Wings a 3-1 series lead on the Pittsburgh Penguins heading into tonight's potential series-clincher at Joe Louis (9:30 p.m., NST).

Both Holmstrom and Detroit coach Mike Babcock maintain he will be in the lineup tonight, but given those projections at this time of year, we'll have to wait and see.

Teams are very clever about such things: a hamstring pull might well be a sore back. A player given the go-ahead one day might be a game-day scratch.

If Holmstrom can't go, look for Dan Cleary to again skate on the top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

Cleary did a good job with those two Saturday, mucking in the corners and providing a human screen for Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Cleary was a factor in Nick Lidstrom's first-period goal, creating havoc in front of Fleury as the defenceman's shot from the point sailed past the Pittburgh puckstop.

"I thought he played great,"Holmstrom said of Cleary, who was unavailable Sunday. "Of course, his job with those two is to go to the net and open up room for the other guys. He did that and he got pucks to the guys.

"It's not an easy job. If you go to the net and stay in front, you know you're going to get punished. That's how it is. You've got to have that mindset."

The Red Wings - like the Penguins - are 9-1 on home ice in the playoffs. Their only loss, ironically enough, came in Game 5 against Dallas - their previous playoff opponent - with Detroit leading the series 3-1.

"We were just sitting around waiting for them to come at us,"defenceman Niklas Kronwall said of the Dallas game. "We can't do that. I mean, it's the Stanley Cup final."

"Now, I've said this a number of times,"Babcock said. "Experience doesn't guarantee success. We had this same situation, had a whole bunch of people here on a Saturday. It was a 1 o‚clock game. Everything was going to be great. We were going to clinch the series. And feel great.

"We weren't flat. We were just nervous early, and we didn't execute, and in the end, we had to win on the road. We've had to win every series on the road thus far.

"So what do you learn from that? You learn you better have your best stuff Monday."

Back in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins skated Sunday before heading to Detroit, the talk continued to be about Evgeni Malkin, the Hart Trophy finalist and league's second-leading point-getter through the regular season who has been held off the scoresheet in the final.

Malkin was invisible in the first two games in Detroit, but played better in Pittsburgh. Still, however, nowhere near the form Pittsburgh requires.

Penguin's coach Michel Therrien, who is not exactly revered by his players, is taking the lovey-dovey approach with Malkin, rather than tough love.

"He's a good kid," Therrien said. "He means well. And it's not a matter that he doesn't want to have success. He wants success for his team, his teammates and for himself too.

"We're supporting him. I met with him before the game to show him that we believe in him, because he's a kid we really believe in."

This is Babcock's second appearance in the finals as a head coach. In 2002-03, he led Anaheim to the final against the New Jersey Devils, where the Mighty Ducks lost 3-0 in Game 7.

After the game, Babcock remained on the bench to watch the Devils hoist the Stanley Cup and parade around the ice with the mug.

"There's been a lot of really good players and a lot of really good coaches who never got that opportunity,"he said. "And so I don't know if I did it that time to see how bad it felt or if I did it to see how good it was going to feel.

"But the bottom line, I remember I was pretty sad, we had a pretty sad dressing room, and they had an elated group."


Organizations: Pittsburgh Penguins, Red Wings, New Jersey Devils Mighty Ducks

Geographic location: Detroit, Detroit River, Windsor Pittsburgh Dallas Anaheim

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