Sid hopes to finally get close to Cup

DETROIT — It has always seemed like Sidney Crosby was raised to be a National Hockey League star. That was his destiny.

Talk about the ability to anticipate the play, he never laid a paw on the Stanley Cup all along — just in case.

"Never photographed with it," he said on Thursday, the day before Game 7. "(Former Anaheim Duck) Joey DiPenta actually had a Stanley Cup party in my hometown, (but) I didn’t make it to the party, and I didn’t get a photograph with it.

"Everyone knows that you try to stay away from it until you get the opportunity to really do it yourself. When I think about it, I think there are a lot of things that come to mind. But more or less, I probably remember the most is just previous captains who have lifted it. I remember I was really young seeing Montreal in ’93. But as far as specifically the Cup itself, I remember more guys with it than it by itself."

He’s hoping that by Saturday morning, Sports front pages across the continent have pictures of Crosby hugging the Cup.

Hoping, that is. Not visualizing.

"I think you try to push them aside," Crosby said of those visions. "You know, you want to approach it as much as you can like a normal game — and it’s probably a lot easier said than done. But it’s so important to focus on what you have to do out there. Whether I look at the last game we’re facing elimination, you don’t think, ‘What if they win here?’ You can’t think like that."

Frankly, some guys can barely think at all under the pressure of a Game 7, with a Stanley Cup ring on the line.

"You have nerves, excitement. It’s everything and above," said Ruslan Fedotenko, the hero in 2004 with both Tampa Bay goals in a 2-1, Game 7 victory over Calgary. "You can’t take a pre-game nap because you’re so excited."

Will Fedotenko have his say in the dressing room prior to Friday night’s finale?

"Oh, for sure. I will have my moment, and I will talk to the team before the game," he said. "But, I think I want to keep it between the teammates and myself right now, so I wouldn’t want to say too much right now in the press."

Those are two things they can never take away from Fedotenko, the Ukrainian who grew up in the shadows of Chernobyl: His Game 7 heroics, and the ring that came with it.

Sergei Gonchar can only hope he is so lucky.

"Growing up in Russia, the only thing that you’re really dreaming about probably is a world championship (or) the Olympic Games," Gonchar said. "And at that time, not many Russians were in the NHL. Now I’ve been in the NHL for so many years, now it’s probably a main goal for me as a professional hockey player to win a Cup.

"Being in a Game 7, it’s a huge opportunity. And as you know, it doesn’t come very often, I’ve been in the finals two times before, and, you know, the third time, hopefully this time is going to work for us."

IN THE CREASE — The Game 7 referees will be Bill McCreary and Paul Devorski … the power play stats in the series favour Pittsburgh (4/13) over Detroit (4/21) … Shots on goal are 179-169 for Detroit. Face-offs are 166-140 for Detroit.