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Published: Saturday, 5/31/2008

Red Wings kick back; team enjoys time off at Pennsylvania spa resort

ASSOCIATED PRESS

PITTSBURGH - The Detroit Red Wings enjoyed a day off fit for the stars.

Not the Dallas Stars, either.

Blocked by the NHL from returning to Detroit during the two-day layoff between Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup finals, the Red Wings spent a day of luxury Thursday at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort about 70 miles south of Pittsburgh.

Some players took advantage of the resort's spas, while others received massages and played informal soccer games. Other activities at the resort included golf at the Mystic Rock course, site of the PGA's former 84 Lumber Classic, a Hummer off-road trail, fly fishing, and shooting.

According to the resort, the men's spa offers Swedish messages - no doubt an attraction to the Red Wings' seven Swedish-born players.

The trip to the resort requires some travel on two-lane roads and can take 90 minutes or more from Pittsburgh, or about one-third the time it takes to drive to Detroit.

"I thought what we did was great, absolutely fantastic," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said yesterday. "It's a great spot we went to, [to] totally get away from hockey and do something different, which I think is important."

The Red Wings preferred to go home after Game 3, practice there for two days and return to Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon for Game 4 tonight. But the NHL wouldn't allow that, citing the necessity of making players and coaches available to the news media during the break.

There is another such two-day break scheduled between Games 6 and 7, if necessary.

"Obviously, they felt it was the best way for TV, so that's what we did," Babcock said. "We tried to fly home. ... But this is our opportunity to sell the game and the NHL."

Penguins star Sidney Crosby also took advantage of the day away from the rink, saying he spent most of it resting in bed.

LACK OF SCORING: This was supposed to be the series of the stars, with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Marian Hossa matched against the Red Wings' Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Johan Franzen.

So far, the top scorer in the finals is Red Wings forward Mikael Samuelsson, with three goals. He had two goals in Detroit's first 16 playoff games, both in the same game.

A Penguins player briefly during the 2003-03 season, Samuelsson was a throw-in during the complicated trade in which the Pittsburgh traded up for the No. 1 pick - goalie Marc-Andre Fleury - in the 2003 draft.

Crosby was shut out in the two games in Detroit before scoring twice in Game 3. Malkin was much more visible in Game 3 but doesn't have a goal. Hossa and Datsyuk haven't scored, either, and Zetterberg's lone goal came during Detroit's 4-0 victory in Game 1.

"It's not easy to score," Crosby said.

ALIVE AND KICKING: Yes, the Red Wings are alive and kicking in the finals.

As many teams do, especially given the league's European influence, the Red Wings sometimes warm up before practices and games by playing informal soccer games. The Red Wings engaged in one before their practice yesterday, with most of the team taking part.

The Penguins also play such a game on game nights.

MISSING MARIO: Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux is easy to find on game days. He's always in luxury box 501, the farthest box to the left underneath the press box at Mellon Arena.

On off days, he's not so visible, though he has attended some Penguins practices during their Stanley Cup run.

Lemieux, saying he doesn't want to take away from the players' accomplishments, has turned down interview requests throughout the playoffs. He and former Red Wings star Steve Yzerman dropped ceremonial pucks before Game 1 in Detroit, but Lemieux didn't talk to reporters.

He was last spotted in the Penguins' dressing room shaking hands after their series-clinching Game 5 victory against Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference finals.

"I don't think he wants to be there too much," Penguins forward Max Talbot said. "He just looks at it from his box. I had a chance to watch some games with him when I hurt my foot. You can see he's still really passionate about the game.

"He's all excited, and I think he's living that through us. And it's great."

Lemieux played briefly during Sidney Crosby's rookie season in 2005-06, but retired for the second time in his career midway though that season because of a heart problem that was corrected with medication.

NOTES: Neither team has especially liked Game 4s. The Red Wings and Penguins were 1-2 in Game 4 during the opening three rounds. The Penguins' only two losses in those rounds were in Game 4, to the Rangers and Flyers. ... The Red Wings have not lost back-to-back Stanley Cup finals games since 1995, when they were swept by New Jersey. They swept the finals in 1997 and 1998 and needed only five games to eliminate Carolina in 2002. ... Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik on the fact that 30 of the 31 teams that won the first two finals games at home won the Stanley Cup: "You just try to block out all these stupid stats you guys throw out at us."



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