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

Olympics.

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

home.

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

started.”

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

line.

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

ice.

”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,”

Holland said.

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

season.

”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.”