Red Wings are rested, ready to roll this season
The Detroit Red Wings like their chances to chase the Stanley
Cup, keeping the players they wanted from the team that ended last
season strong and adding a few veterans they needed.
Detroit shook off an injury-filled start last year and, when its
roster was finally healthy, went an NHL-best 16-3-2 after the
The Red Wings extended their postseason streak to 19 year, the
longest in sports, but failed to advance to the Western Conference
finals for the first time since 2006.
This year, like most years, the Red Wings have plenty of
experience. Others wonder if the team is too old to go deep into
the playoffs without getting worn out. As the season began this
week, Detroit had the oldest roster in the NHL with an average age
of 31, the only team above 30.
That roster includes six-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas
Lidstrom (40) and Brian Rafalski (37) on defense.
”They’re older, but I think they’ve shown they still have some
hockey left,” general manager Ken Holland said.
Longtime Dallas star Mike Modano thinks he has some more hockey
to play, too. The 40-year-old Modano decided he wanted to stick
with his day job instead of retiring after the Stars decided he was
no longer wanted. Minnesota and San Jose also gave Modano a chance
to continue his career with them, but he chose to come back
The Livonia, Mich., native has the most points (1,359) by an NHL
player born in the United States, but is coming off his
lowest-scoring season since 1995. He had 14 goals and 30 points in
59 games, fading to being a fourth-line center.
Modano is expected to center Detroit’s third line with Jiri
Hudler and Dan Cleary on the wings.
”A little nervousness,” Modano acknowledged. ”Excited to get
Detroit didn’t make a big splash in free agency, instead
addressing some needs by signing Modano, getting Hudler back after
one season in Russia and adding defenseman Ruslan Salei. Tomas
Holmstrom and Todd Bertuzzi were brought back to bolster the front
The Red Wings, who open the season Friday night at home against
Anaheim, found out just how tough it is to earn victories last
year. They hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2008 and came within a win of
repeating, then lost players – such as Marian Hossa and Mikael
Samuelsson – who combined to score 88 goals.
Detroit was counting on young players to play complimentary
roles, but they weren’t quite ready to do more when Johan Franzen,
Cleary, Nicklas Kronwall and Holmstrom were among the many
banged-up skaters on the injured list.
The Red Wings, though, didn’t fall apart and ended up winning a
series as the fifth seed in the playoffs.
Adding players – while the Stanley Cup champion Chicago
Blackhawks were one of the teams that saw many stars leave – has
given Detroit confidence.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, though, doesn’t want his players
to simply think their talent will shine as soon as they step on the
”We need to understand that you can’t skill your way around the
rink,” Babcock said. ”You have to work.”
Holland also hopes forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk
can bounce back from 70-point seasons and produce like stars again
with an improved surrounding cast.
”We really need Hank and Pavel to give us 85-plus points,”
In goal, Detroit is counting on Jimmy Howard starting off how he
finished last season, ranking among league leaders in wins,
goals-against average, save percentage and being a candidate for
rookie of the year.
Detroit gave up 2 1/2 goals a game last season and believes
that’s a key for the storied franchise to have another special
”We know we’re capable of doing it,” said Lidstrom, who has
helped the Red Wings win four Stanley Cups since 1997. ”It’s just
a matter of doing it now.”