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Hossa to make Red Wings debut tonight

by Dan Rosen

A few thoughts while the Tampa Bay Lightning pack their bags for a long and adventurous road trip.

Champs on ice -- For the first time since lifting the Stanley Cup, the Detroit Red Wings will play a game tonight. Montreal, fresh off a memorable exhibition game in Roberval, Quebec, makes its way to Motown for tonight's preseason matchup.

Most importantly, though, tonight marks the first time prized free-agent acquisition Marian Hossa will wear the famous winged wheel on his chest. Hossa, as any hockey fan who hasn't been living in a cave already knows, signed a one-year contract this summer to play for the Stanley Cup champs.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Red Wings have broken up into two teams, Team Howe and Team Lindsay, to split their nine preseason games.

Tonight, Team Howe gets a turn, and the Press reports its breakdown looks like this:

Forwards: Hossa, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom, Kirk Maltby, Ville Leino, Ryan Oulahen, Kris Draper, Aaron Downey, Evan McGrath, Francis Pare, Jan Mursak, Jamie Tardif, Tom Galvin and Tomas Kopecky.

Defensemen: Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Kyle Quincey, Derek Meech, Chris Chelios, Tom Galvin and Jakub Kindl, who reportedly won't play due to a groin injury.

Goalies: Jimmy Howard and Ty Conklin.

Barring any injuries, there really is only one forward spot up for grabs in Detroit, and the battle for it is between Leino, Downey, Darren Helm and Darren McCarty.

Leino, who was voted the best player in the Finnish league last season, has never played a game on NHL ice. He signed a one-year contract in May and reportedly looked good during the Red Wings' four-day training camp in Traverse City, Mich.

Tonight marks a good opportunity for Quincey and Meech to impress Mike Babcock, Ken Holland and Co. The Red Wings have a glut of NHL-caliber defensemen, and Quincey and Meech are trying to earn a spot on the roster.

Howard is in a battle with Conklin for the backup goalie job, but Howard will have to seriously outplay the veteran backup because he can still be sent back to the minors without having to clear waivers.

Rivalry renewed -- Who cares if it's only the preseason? When the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils hit the ice together, you know the intensity will be ratcheted up.

Toss in the fact that the Rangers wiped New Jersey out of last season's Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in five games, you have a preseason game that will probably feel more like a regular-season clash in Newark, N.J.

"We're looking to turn things around this year. Last year, we weren't happy with the result." -- New Jersey Devils center John Madden

"We're looking to turn things around this year," Devils center John Madden told the New York Post. "Last year, we weren't happy with the result."

When Madden says it, you better believe it. It's hard to find anybody that takes their job more seriously than Madden.

"There always has to be a mindset within your team that this is a rivalry," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "The young players will find that out. You expect it to be a highly intense game."

Even though only one preseason game has passed, the Devils are hungry. Sutter was not happy with anybody -- save for enforcer Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, who got into two fights -- after the Devils' 4-1 loss in Philadelphia during the weekend. Martin Brodeur didn't make that trip, but he'll play at least half the game tonight.

As for the Rangers, this will be their third of four straight preseason games. They beat Ottawa, 2-1, at Madison Square Garden on Monday before losing in Tampa Bay, 3-2, Tuesday night. The Lightning play at MSG on Thursday night before shipping out to Prague to begin their journey to the Bridgestone NHL Premiere 2008.
The Rangers will play one more preseason game in North America on Saturday, against the Devils at MSG no less, before flying to Bern, Switzerland.

Alfie to play -- According to the Ottawa Citizen, Daniel Alfredsson will be making his preseason debut tonight when the Ottawa Senators host Philadelphia. Goalie Martin Gerber should play the entire game, but a sore groin will likely keep Mike Fisher out of the lineup.

The newspaper is reporting that Senators coach Craig Hartsburg plans to play Alfredsson on a line with Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly. Jessie Winchester will again skate with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza.

It's very possible that these lines stick all the way to the season opener in Stockholm against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 4.

"Obviously, your role changes a little bit (playing with Alfredsson), but I can't change my game too much," Kelly told the Citizen. "You have to get him the puck and good things normally happen."

Franchise comes home -- Shane Doan is the only player left in Phoenix with any ties to Winnipeg, but for the third straight preseason, the Coyotes captain will bring the franchise back to its former home tonight to play the Calgary Flames.

Phoenix has yet to win a game in Winnipeg, losing 5-0 to Edmonton in 2006 and 3-2 to Toronto last fall.

"It's special because it's where I started my career," Doan told the Coyotes Web site. "The Jets gave me the chance to play in the NHL and I worked my whole life for that opportunity. And it's in western Canada and I'm from western Canada."

Ollie Jokinen reportedly did not make the trip and will make his Coyotes debut Saturday night at Arena against Anaheim. Ilya Bryzgalov also didn't make the trip and Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal, Daniel Carcillo and Derek Morris are not expected to play.

The game also marks a return home for Flames forward Dustin Boyd, who is coming off a strong game Tuesday night in a 3-2 loss to Florida. Boyd had a goal and an assist and drew a pair of penalties.

“"Last year, I got to play, got to see the NHL game. This year, it's a matter of making a bigger impact, a bigger splash." -- Flames forward Dustin Boyd

Boyd, 22, a third-round pick in 2004, is trying to impress coach Mike Keenan enough to earn a regular shift. He played in 48 games last season and had 12 points after playing in 13 games and registering four points in 2006-07

"It's almost night and day," Boyd told the Calgary Herald. "Last year, I got to play, got to see the NHL game. This year, it's a matter of making a bigger impact, a bigger splash."

T-Mc's debut -- Todd McLellan makes his NHL head-coaching debut tonight when he takes his San Jose Sharks south to Anaheim. According to the San Jose Mercury News, McLellan plans to go with a younger lineup.

The newspaper reported Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle and Rob Blake are all not expected to play. Neither will Torrey Mitchell, who is out roughly eight weeks with a broken leg.

Losing a legitimate scoring threat and a reliable penalty killer for at least the first month of the regular season was the first blow McLellan had to deal with as a head coach, but he decided to look at it as an opportunity to find another gem like Mitchell.

Mitchell, an unheralded fourth-round pick in 2004, developed into an NHL player last season. McLellan is hoping someone emerges during the preseason that can take his job, at least for the short term.

"What it allows us to do now, for a short period anyhow, is to find a player, somebody to step up and assume a bigger role," McLellan said.

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