Where the Stanley Cup Finals meet Russian comedians

PITTSBURGH -- Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock made it clear that Kris Draper will be back in the lineup for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Thursday night; less clear was the fate of Pavel Datsyuk, the star center who has missed the first three games of this series with a foot injury.

Did Datsyuk look like Datsyuk in practice? He looked pretty good, and practiced longer than most of the Red Wings. Babcock says he'll be a game-time decision; Datsyuk said, "I'm healthy now," but maintained the company line that he's still questionable.

If nothing else, today's off-day media mingling taught us that Russians are intrinsically funny. Especially the ones that play hockey. Seriously, we know Versus doesn't need the help with its spiffy 2.6 national rating, making Game 3 the highest-rated and most-watched Stanley Cup Final game on cable since 2002; but if they're looking to beef up the giggles on the studio show, one word: Russians.

Datsyuk on having to sit out: "Oh, I tell you, this is not fun to watch. I take in lots of beer."

Datsyuk on whether he might play wing in Game 4: "I think at wing, center, defenseman, I want to play so bad."

Datsyuk on how long he'd like to play in Game 4: "The game is 60 minutes. I hope to play 60 minutes. But we make a decision tomorrow morning."

Meanwhile, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins got more laughs than Conan did on his "Tonight Show" debut (c'mon, it's true) during his press briefing today at Mellon. Geno, your thoughts on Max Talbot's abilities?

This led to a series of questions about Malkin's comedic stylings in later press conferences. Bill Guerin on Malkin: "From what Gonch and Fedotenko tell me, he's extremely funny ... and it's kind of obvious when he's going to carve somebody because he goes right from English right into Russian, so you can't understand it."

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma: "Of all the guys in that room, he probably likes a joke more than the next guy ... He's the first guy to laugh at my jokes. That's why I like him."

What's Russian for "pity laugh?" Anyway, we've got pregame coverage on Thursday, including some hilarious photos from around Mellon; don't forget about the next epic live blog for Game 4, either.

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