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Hossa's switch puts him in Final spotlight

by Phil Coffey
DETROIT – Marian Hossa could have taken the money and run off to any number of places last summer. But he will be in a position to tell you if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence fairly soon.

Hossa, the premier name on the unrestricted free-agent market last summer, took the risk of a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings instead of mega-bucks, figuring a season with the Winged Wheel would provide the best opportunity to win a Stanley Cup.

So, consider the irony that Hossa has indeed reached the Cup Final with Detroit -- but will be lining up against the Pittsburgh Penguins, his team in the 2008 Final against the Red Wings.

Only in sports, folks, only in sports.

"Obviously, I saw the Penguins playing well during the whole playoffs," Hossa smiled. "They were playing so well, so it came to my mind, obviously, we can end up playing against each other which would be very interesting for myself. So it came down to that, and it's a unique situation. Like I said, you know, now I'm in a Red Wings uniform and I try to help the team to win.

"It came down to two choices, like I said. You know, I could be a good scout because I picked the two best teams right now," a patient Hossa said as he spoke to scores of reporters at Friday's media day activities. "But to tell you the truth, it was a hard one. You know, in life you have to make hard decisions, and I chose this one. Hopefully I made the right decision."

Hossa scored 40 goals and 31 assists for the Wings this season and has 6 goals and 6 assists so far in the playoffs.

"Obviously I had a great time here during the whole year," Hossa said. "It was a tremendous organization, and great guys. But now I try to enjoy it, and I hopefully can go all the way."

Hossa's play will be under the microscope this whole series because of the way he left Pittsburgh for Detroit. He can expect to hear it from the fans when the series shifts to Mellon Arena. According to Mike Babcock's way of thinking, that makes the Final all the more exciting for Hossa.

"As far as Hossa goes, he should be pumped right up to play them," Babcock said. "In saying that, he chose to come to our team. As a man, made a decision, and I think he probably feels it's a good decision. We think it's a good decision -- and now we get a chance to play his old team. I don't think there's any more to it than that."

Hossa is looking forward to the challenge of playing against his old team and in front of his former fans.

"Obviously, it's going to be an interesting series," Hossa said. "This doesn't happen every day, being in this kind of situation. But I am on this side, looking forward to it. It's going to be a great challenge because Pittsburgh's a really good team. We'll try to have fun."

The Penguins iced an impressive young team in 2008. But Hossa looked across and saw the veteran guile and experience of the Wings and that clinched it for him.

"The winning situation was one thing," he said. "But another thing, you know, no offense to Cheli (Chris Chelios), who may end up playing longer than Sid and Malkin, but there was another reason why I choose this team, because the group, Cheli and Nick (Lidstrom), and (Kris) Draper and (Kirk) Maltby. The experience … who can help me in the future learn something new from those guys. Why Detroit Red Wings Western Conference Champs Gearthey're winning so well and why they're going so well during the years. That was another reason why I joined the Red Wings."

So, no regrets?

"Regrets? Not at all," Hossa said. "I've got the chance to go to the Final and win the Cup, so not at all. If I wish the Penguins would not be in the Final? Well, that's a difficult question. But to tell you the truth, they're here and they deserve to be here because they're one of the best. They beat really good teams and they are in the Final. They deserve it. It's going to be fun. It's going to be a big challenge."

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