Reminder: Live Blog tonight for Game 3, starting at 7:45 p.m. EST.
PITTSBURGH -- For hockey fans, it's a constant tug-of-war between part of the puckhead brain: The part that yearns for each and every penalty to be called out of competitive fairness, and the part that wants a light touch from the referees in the spirit of "let them play."
As a member of the "Grind Line," you can imagine which part of Kirk Maltby's brain dominates this debate. Within the first 10 minutes of a game, the Detroit Red Wings winger knows what the players can and can't get away when it comes to the officiating; and the veteran's been a happy agitator with the laissez-faire refereeing he's seen in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals.
"They're not going back to the old rules, where there's the dramatic hooks and holds and slingshots coming up the ice. I think they're letting guys battle, in the corners and in front of the net. As players and as hockey fans, all you ask is that it's even on both sides. I'm not really used to this many penalties not being called, but it's fun. You're letting the guys go out and play and decide who's going to win."
The officiating was a topic of conversation for both teams heading into tonight's Game 3. The Wings lead the number of power plays in the Finals, 4-3.
Pittsburgh Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma was asked if the "standard of officiating" has changed from the regular season. "I think the standard that's been called in the game has been fair. I mean, [are] there penalties on each side? As a coach, you can go through the game and say that was a penalty, that's wasn't a penalty. But if you're honest, you can usually say that about both sides," he said.
"I think the standard on the ice has been pretty consistent for both teams."
Babcock disagreed with the idea that the standards for officials have changed. "I think there were so many penalties in previous rounds, they only called part of them anyway," he said.
"I don't think that's been an issue, whatsoever."
As for Game 3, Maltby said he isn't concerned that this "free ride" from the officials is about to end. "You'd like to think not. We'll see how the first period goes. Obviously, if they're starting to call a little bit more, it's up to us to adjust to it," he said. "Whatever they end up calling tonight, from the get-go, as long as they're calling it both ways."
On the news front, it's looking good for Kris Draper to return to the lineup if Mikael Samuelsson can't go. And all signs point to Pavel Datsyuk missing tonight's game, though nothing was officially announced.
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