Pens plan to keep nerves in check

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:12 PM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Yes, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has a lucky tie and/or suit which he will wear for Game 7 Wednesday night against the Montreal Canadiens.

And yes, the second-year coach has yet to lose an NHL playoff series (5-0) or a Game 7 (2-0) in his brief career behind the bench.

The Penguins have also won their past four Game 7's and five of the past six, but if the recent track record accounts for anything -- including Game 7 wins over Washington and Detroit on their way to winning the Cup last spring -- it isn't giving Bylsma any comfort.

"If experience helps, my stomach doesn't feel it right now," Bylsma said following an upbeat morning skate at the Mellon Arena, the last one the Penguins will ever have at the old Igloo if they don't defeat the Habs and advance.

The eyes of the hockey world are once again on Pittsburgh in probably the most anticipated game thus far in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Can the Canadiens miracle season continue? Does Penguins captain Sidney Crosby have another magic moment to match his gold-medal winning goal in Vancouver?

"With a Game 7 there is a little more on the line than normal and you are going to be a little nervous but it can't affect the way you play," Crosby said. "This is when you want to be at your best, where you should be at your best.

"You just have to go out there and believe in your game. You don't get this far swaying from your identity."

Bylsma rejected the old mindset popularized by Mark Messier that fear can be a great motivator with elimination on the line. To that end, the Penguins were extremely loose in their up-tempo morning skate.

"Everyone fears not moving on, but playing with fear in your mind when you have the puck is not where I would like our players to be tonight," the second-year Pens coach said. "We know what's at stake, we know the gravity of the situation, we know where we want to go."

Bylsma is expected to have at least one minor tweak to his team for Game 7, returning former Maple Leaf Alexei Ponikarovsky to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past two games. At the morning skate, Ponikarovsky was on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Bill Guerin.

His return is likely to help create some traffic in front of Montreal goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

"We've got to get traffic in front of him," Crosby said. "It always makes it more difficult for a goalie when you can get second and third chances."

NOTES: Since the 2008 playoffs began, the Penguins are 21-7 at home, a record that helped them get to the previous two Stanley Cup finals. This year, however, they are 3-3 at the Igloo ... The Pens are attempting to become the first Eastern Conference team to advance to the conference final for three consecutive years since Boston did in from 1990-92.


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