Detroit won 4-2 (Game 1 of 6)

Detroit won 4-2

Game 1: Thursday, May 8th
Red Wings4
Game 2: Saturday, May 10th
Red Wings2
Game 3: Monday, May 12th
Red Wings5Final
Game 4: Wednesday, May 14th
Red Wings1Final
Game 5: Saturday, May 17th
Red Wings1
Game 6: Monday, May 19th
Red Wings4Final

Coverage: NBCSN

7:30 PM ET, May 8, 2008

Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan

1 2 3 T
DAL 0 1 01
DET 2 2 04

T. Holmstrom (Red Wings - LW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

N. Lidstrom (Red Wings - D): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

N. Kronwall (Red Wings - D): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

Pressure on Red Wings, not Stars, as Western Conference finals open

DETROIT ( news services) -- The Detroit Red Wings just about lapped up the competition in the regular season and have rolled to six straight wins in the playoffs heading into the Western Conference finals.

If they don't get past the Dallas Stars and go on to win the Stanley Cup, though, the year will be regarded as a bust in their dressing room and outside it in the Motor City.

"That's the expectations that are in this town," Henrik Zetterberg acknowledged Wednesday as the Red Wings prepared for Thursday's series opener. "As a player, you know that and you like it.

"You rather have that than the fans are happy just to make the playoffs."

Meanwhile, anything else the sixth-seeded Stars accomplish this postseason would appear to be a bonus.

Dallas knocked off the defending champion Anaheim Ducks in the first round and upset the second-seeded San Jose Sharks in the second to earn a matchup with the NHL's top-seeded team.

"Bring it on," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "If we're going to go up the food chain, might as well eat the best."

Few people, if any, are predicting the Stars will stun Detroit, and that's OK with them.

"Nobody picked us in the two previous series either," Mike Modano said. "That's just the way it's been. We weren't even favored the year after we won the Stanley Cup."

The Stars haven't played in the conference finals since 2000 -- the year after their title -- and avoided a first-round defeat for the first time since 2003. In 2000, they lost to the Devils in the Stanley Cup finals.

Detroit led the Ducks 2-1 in the Western Conference finals last year, then lost three straight.

While Zetterberg is well aware of the Stanley Cup-or-bust demands in Detroit, the demands surprised coach Mike Babcock in his first season.

The Red Wings won the Presidents' Trophy two years ago, then flopped in the first round for their third straight early exit after the franchise won its 10th title in 2002.

"I didn't know the expectations of the past were going to haunt us, and I couldn't believe how we were paralyzed," Babcock said. "I had no idea. I didn't understand that."

Both the Red Wings and Stars understand they'll need to keep getting what they've had thus far -- great goaltending, balanced scoring and hard hits -- to play Pittsburgh or Philadelphia in the Stanley Cup finals.

Detroit's Chris Osgood and Dallas' Marty Turco rank first and second, respectively, in goals-against average. Their save percentages are the third- and fourth-best in the playoffs.

Red Wings center Johan Franzen and Stars center Mike Ribeiro are tied for the league lead in scoring among active players with 14 points and have plenty of help. Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk each have 13 points for Detroit, while Dallas' Brenden Morrow and Brad Richards each have 11.

Franzen leads all NHL players with 11 playoff goals, the most in a single postseason in Red Wings history. Franzen is now chasing the NHL record for most goals in a single postseason (19), set by Jari Kurri of Edmonton in 1985 and Reggie Leach of Philadelphia in 1976.

Detroit has shed the perception that it's skilled and soft with players such as Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart delivering glass-rattling checks. Morrow is one of many players maintaining the Stars' reputation for skating hard and hitting harder.

Both teams are relatively healthy, with Dallas' Philippe Boucher (hip) and Stu Barnes (concussion) doubtful and Detroit's Chris Chelios (lower body) and Valtteri Filppula (leg) probable for Game 1.

The Stars started their previous two series winning twice on the road because they simply executed their strategy perfectly, Morrow said.

"Stayed disciplined, forechecked, turned pucks over and capitalized on our opportunities," he said. "We've had success with that."

Since the Red Wings allowed Nashville to even the first round at 2-2 after winning the first two games and replaced Dominik Hasek with Osgood, they've been dominant home and away against the Predators and the Colorado Avalanche.

The Wings are fueled from getting so close to the Stanley Cup finals a year ago that they almost see the NHL's towering symbol of excellence.

"We were here last year and didn't get to continue," Babcock said. "We'd like to continue this year."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.