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Canucks-Red Wings Preview @NHLdotcom

Most teams would panic after their franchise center of 22 years retired and a storied veteran on the verge of 600 goals left via free agency.

But most teams aren't the Detroit Red Wings, who still have a franchise-type player in defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.

Trying to retool after significant departures, the Red Wings begin their quest for a sixth consecutive Central Division title Thursday as they host the Vancouver Canucks at Joe Louis Arena.

For the first time since the 1982-83 season, Steve Yzerman will not take the ice for the Red Wings. After 22 seasons, 692 goals, 1,755 points and three Stanley Cup titles, the future Hall of Famer retired in the offseason.

Also missing from last season's squad is Brendan Shanahan, who left for the New York Rangers via free agency. Shanahan, who is two goals shy of becoming the 15th player in NHL history to reach 600, scored 310 goals in almost nine full seasons with the Red Wings.

Lidstrom, a four-time Norris Trophy winner as the league's best defenseman and coming off his best offensive season with a career-high 80 points, has been elevated to captain and is in charge of helping Detroit put aside its surprising first-round playoff exit last year after winning the Presidents' Trophy with a league-high 124 points.

"I still want to win another Stanley Cup and win that last game of the season to get that Stanley Cup again," said Lidstrom, the defensive linchpin for Detroit's title teams in 1997, 1998 and 2002. "When you've won it before, you know what it's like and you want to get that feeling back."

Filling the offensive void created by Yzerman and Shanahan's departures are Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, who combined for 67 goals and 172 points last season.

"I don't think me and Pavel feel pressure," Zetterberg said. "Both me and Pavel have a lot of high expectations on ourselves. I don't think we care that much what other people think."

The Red Wings conceded just 2.51 goals per game last season and added veteran blueliner Danny Markov to a deep defensive corps. But the biggest surprise is at goaltender, where 41-year-old Dominik Hasek - who backstopped the Red Wings in their 2002 title run - returns for his third stint with the team.

Hasek, who came out of retirement to sign with the Ottawa Senators before the lockout, suffered a groin injury while playing for the Czech Republic at the Winter Olympics and was unable to play in the NHL afterwards.

"I don't think anyone in a million years thought we would bring Hasek back," Red Wings senior vice president Jim Devellano said. "But after exploring every option via free agency and trades, we decided it was worth the gamble. If he can stay healthy, it will be a good move. If not, well, it probably will not be."

Hasek's 324 victories are fifth among active goaltenders and 18th overall. His 68 shutouts are third among active players and 12th all-time.

The Canucks, who missed the playoffs, are coming off a disappointing season as well that resulted in the firing of coach Marc Crawford and a blockbuster offseason trade that sent power forward Todd Bertuzzi to the Florida Panthers as part of a five-player deal that yielded goaltender Roberto Luongo.

The 27-year-old Luongo, who had a career-high 35 wins last season, quickly signed a four-year, $27 million deal with the Canucks and became the highest-paid player on the team.

"Roberto has proven himself to be an elite goaltender," Vancouver general manager Dave Nonis said at the time of the signing in June. "His international experience, Vezina Trophy nomination and ability to consistently play at the highest level are tremendous assets that we believe will make the Vancouver Canucks competitive each and every night."

Vancouver is hoping the Sedin twins - Henrik and Daniel - can continue their upward climb to being elite players. Henrik had a team-high 57 assists and finished second on the team with 75 points - almost double his total from the 2003-04 season, while Daniel tallied 22 goals and totaled 71 points, 17 higher than his previous season.

The defense will have to overcome the departure of Ed Jovanovski, but the Canucks signed Willie Mitchell in the offseason to add some veteran presence to a young group of blueliners. Mitchell split last season between Minnesota and Dallas, recording two goals, eight assists and a plus-19 rating in 80 games

The teams split four games last season, with each team getting one road victory. Luongo is 1-4-1 lifetime against the Red Wings despite a 2.75 GAA and .931 save percentage.

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