NHL: Wingsí Lidstrom has rare chance
By Larry Lage
DETROIT ó Nicklas Lidstrom is on the cusp of hockey history.
The Swedish defenseman would be the first European captain to win a Stanley Cup if the Detroit Red Wings get past Pittsburgh.
iIt would mean a lot,î Lidstrom acknowledged Thursday. iBut itís still secondary to being able to win the Cup again and getting another ring.î
The three-time champion, who became the first European to win a Conn Smythe Trophy during the 2002 finals, would break a tie with Ray Bourque if he wins a sixth Norris Trophy as expected this summer. Bobby Orr set the mark among defensemen by winning the Norris eight times, and Doug Harvey won seven.
Those tuning in to watch Lidstrom face the Sidney Crosby-led Penguins in the Stanley Cup finals, which start Saturday night, might not be awed by his greatness.
Like a world-class referee, Lidstrom rarely makes a mistake ó so he tends to get overlooked.
iTo appreciate the subtleties of how talented and consistent he is, you have to watch him every day,î Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. iHeís not about flashy. Heís about substance.î
The 6-foot-1, 189-pound Lidstrom beats teams with his intelligence and instincts, a wicked combination that puts him in the right place to make a play or prevent one.
iHeís always pretty much in a perfect position,î Pittsburgh defenseman Sergei Gonchar said. iHeís probably one of the greatest defensemen ever to play the game.î
Former Red Wing Mickey Redmond said thereís a reason casual fans usually donít make the same assessment.
iNick doesnít get the credit or recognition he deserves because he plays the game without being physical. Doug Harvey was a lot like that,î Redmond said. iWhen you have a marvelous mind, you can keep yourself out of trouble and avoid getting hurt.î
Lidstrom has played in nearly 1,500 games since making his NHL debut in 1991. He missed a career-high six straight games earlier this season because of a knee injury, making rare appearances on the list of scratches.
Lidstrom broke Steve Yzermanís team records this year by playing in his 16th straight postseason and his 197th playoff game. He later played in his 201st playoff game, surpassing Jari Kurriís NHL mark among European players.
The 38-year-old Lidstrom is productive when he plays, too. He led all league defensemen during the regular season with 70 points and a plus-40 rating.
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