DETROIT — The Detroit Red Wings had 3-1 series leads twice in the playoffs last year and failed to advance on home ice either time.
Detroit did, though, beat the Pittsburgh Penguins to win the Stanley Cup after eliminating the Dallas Stars. Both series ended in Game 6 on the road.
The defending champions would like to make things a little easier on themselves Wednesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
“You want to finish it as soon as you can,” Detroit defenceman Brian Rafalski said Monday, a day after the Red Wings beat Chicago 6-1 in Game 4. “Obviously, we have some banged-up bodies.
“We want to get them healthy, and the best way to do that is to finish it as soon as you can.”
MVP finalist Pavel Datsyuk (foot) has missed two games, six-time Norris Trophy-winning defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom (lower body-injury) was a surprise scratch Sunday, and four-time Cup-winning forward Kris Draper (lower body) missed Game 4, too.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said he hopes Datsyuk and Lidstrom will be back on the ice Wednesday, but ruled out Draper for Game 5.
Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood said the team doctor kept him out of the third period Sunday because of cramps, but insisted he felt “great” on Monday.
“If it had been a closer game, I would have stayed in for sure,” Osgood said.
On the brink of elimination, the Blackhawks are also banged up.
Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body) hasn’t played since the second period of Game 4, which Chicago won in overtime, and the team’s leading scorer, Martin Havlat, left the ice in two straight games after getting checked hard.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said the status for both players will become more clear Tuesday.
If Havlat is hesitant to step back on the ice before becoming a free agent this summer, it’ll be understandable. He was hit by defenceman Niklas Kronwall in the first period of Game 3 and by defenceman Brad Stuart in the middle of Game 4.
“The physicality of Stuart and Kronwall is so important for our success at playoff time,” Babcock said.
Rafalski said Kronwall’s open-ice checks remind him of the ones dished out by former New Jersey Devils teammate Scott Stevens. Kronwall was given a major penalty and was ejected from Game 3 for his shot on Havlat.
“He’s not as big as Scotty, but he still delivers,” Rafalski said.
Quenneville delivered the line of the day after Game 4, saying, “I think we witnessed probably the worst call in the history of sports there,” after a roughing penalty on Matt Walker led to Detroit taking a 3-0 lead in the second period.