PITTSBURGH -- There was a lot of discussion in the hours before Game 7 about the value of experience in these situations or, if you believe Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma, the absolute lack of value in having been down this road before.
"Last year, it didn't feel like Game 7 in the Washington series helped us in Game 7 in Detroit," Bylsma said Wednesday morning.
Of course, the Penguins defeated both clubs on the road in deciding games en route to the Stanley Cup.
"Certainly, the experience is probably a good thing, but it is about this game tonight," Bylsma said. "These two teams have battled six games to get to this one. Both teams are going to know what's at stake. If experience helps, my stomach doesn't feel it right now."
Pittsburgh defenseman Mark Eaton said he doesn't approach this game any differently than the previous six.
"Me personally, I know my routine doesn't change," Eaton said. "It's just another game, albeit a Game 7 of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"You prepare for every game the same way. For us, we look at a series as a seven-game process. Sometimes it takes less, but in this case, it's going to go the distance and we just want to stay with that process."
Eaton said the Pens have watched how Washington approached its seventh game against Montreal in the first round and hope to avoid the pitfalls the heavily favored Capitals encountered.
"We kind of watched Montreal's last series, their Game 7, and Washington looked tight, they looked like they were pressing," Eaton said. "We know and we feel that's not us. We're loose. We're not going to do anything differently that we haven't done before."
And then there is fear.
"I'm a big fan of paying attention to your emotions, and I think to ignore some of them is to not get yourself to the right spot or your team to the right spot to play the game," Bylsma said. "I think every person, if they were honest, would say that fear has entered their mind or their anticipation of what might happen tonight."
He won't use that fear as a motivating tool and is hoping it doesn't end up playing on his players' minds once the game starts.
"Everyone fears not moving on, but playing with fear in your mind as you handle the puck is not where I'd like our players to be tonight," the coach added. "We know what's at stake, we know the gravity of the situation, we know where we'd like to go, and it's about our team playing game."
Canadiens coach Jacques Martin concurred, saying, "I don't think that you should fear a Game 7. That's what you work all year for. I really believe that we're excited to be in this Game 7. We're looking forward to the challenge."
Good Fleury or bad Fleury?There was a lot of knee-knocking in Penguins Nation about the play of netminder Marc-Andre Fleury heading into Game 7. He has been both superlative and soft in this series, but history has shown he has an uncanny ability to bounce back (Fleury is 11-3 after playoff losses over the past three postseasons).
"Focus, I think, for Marc is a big thing," Bylsma said. "Coming back after a loss, he seems to be able to bring his game into focus, bring his mindset into focus, and that can be a hard thing after a loss or a bad game, and he's showed before, time and time again, that he's able to do that and he's been able to do that on a big stage like the playoffs. That's been a big part of our success and why he's a big-time goalie -- that focus."
'I expected this to be tough'If there is any surprise the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens have been able to extend this series to seven games, it apparently exists only outside the Penguins' dressing room.
"I think everybody else is [surprised], but when you play in the playoffs, you expect it to be tough," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said Wednesday morning. "I think you always prepare for the toughest route to get there. You hope you win four all the time, you hope you win every game, but that's not the way it works. If you want to have success, you have to find ways to make it work, especially in tough scenarios like this.
"I did not expect this to go four games. I expected this to be tough, and that is exactly what it has been."
More time for Staal & Co.Bylsma suggested Jordan Staal's line would see more ice time in Game 7 against red-hot Mike Cammalleri, who has six goals in this series and leads the NHL with 11 goals in 13 games.
Martin said Cammalleri has that goal scorer's knack of finding a place from which to use his quick release. "He's got great anticipation," Martin said. "He has the ability to find holes."
As for Cammalleri, someone suggested to him the Habs looked loose Wednesday morning.
"It's a fine line," he said. "I don't think we're sitting here sleeping at all. We're excited. We're upbeat. But it's the same old story; no one expects us to be here, so they 'have' to win and we'd 'like' to win."
Lucky tie?As for whether he will be wearing a lucky suit or tie, a la Detroit coach Mike Babcock and his McGill University tie, Bylsma acknowledged he would.
"I will be wearing a suit that's lucky," the coach said. "My wife will probably shake her head right now. I'm occasionally prone to do the lucky suit or a suit that's won a lot of games. It may be a tie; it maybe a suit. I let all the suits try out in the regular season and [some] get a lot of play in the postseason."