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Red Wings making familiar visit to White House

by Mike G. Morreale

"We need to find our work ethic and our passion again. It doesn't carry over from year to year. You've got to find it again and I thought we took a good step (against Ottawa)."
-- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock

The post-Stanley Cup celebration hasn't ended yet for the Detroit Red Wings.

On Tuesday, President George W. Bush will honor the 2008 Cup champions during a ceremony in the East Room of The White House at 2:30 p.m. ET. Members of the team, including captain Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Illitch, General Manager Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock, along with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, are scheduled to gather at the White House.

It will be the second time the Wings have visited the White House under the current Bush administration. They last paid a visit Nov. 8, 2002 after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes in five games for the 2002 Cup. President Bill Clinton hosted the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.

The Wings (1-1) suffered a 3-2 setback to the Toronto Maple Leafs in their season opener at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday, but rallied for a 3-2 victory against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place on Saturday.

"It was a good game for us to find a way to win and it was important that we had to really work hard to do it," Babcock said following Saturday's triumph. "We need to find our work ethic and our passion again. It doesn't carry over from year to year. You've got to find it again and I thought we took a good step (against Ottawa)."
Detroit next will travel to RBC Center in Carolina to face the 2-0 Hurricanes on Monday at 7 p.m. The Wings also will honor two of their legendary performers this week with Alex Delvecchio Night on Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks, and Ted Lindsay Night on Saturday against the Rangers. The club will unveil specially commissioned statues of the players within the concourse at Joe Louis Arena.
Metropolitan madness -- Just because we haven't gotten through a full week of the NHL season doesn't mean the games won't mean as much. Take, for instance, this little contest taking place at Madison Square Garden Monday night that features the Atlantic Division's only two unbeaten teams -- the Devils (2-0) and Rangers (4-0).

Yes, anticipate a playoff-like intensity and atmosphere.

If you'll recall, the Rangers were 7-0-1 against the Devils last season, and then eliminated them in five games in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Devils owned the Rangers in the 2006-07 season, however, winning the regular-season series, 5-2-1.

And with 540 career victories, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur is 12 wins shy of overtaking Patrick Roy as the NHL's all-time career leader. Now, the Devils are a long way from beginning the season 14-0, and who knows when coach Brent Sutter will decide to give No. 30 a breather, but nothing is impossible when Brodeur is working his magic between the pipes. That said, the Devils will be hosting the Edmonton Oilers in their 14th game of the season Nov. 9, followed by the Rangers coming into the Prudential Center on Nov. 12.

Pennsylvania passion -- The Philadelphia Flyers (0-1) will visit Mellon Arena on Tuesday to renew their "friendly" rivalry with the defending Eastern Conference champion Pittsburgh Penguins (1-1-1).

"Friendly" -- yeah, right.

The Pens may have lost five of the eight regular-season games to the Flyers in 2007-08, including all four meetings at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, but they certainly made amends in the postseason by eliminating the Flyers in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Flyers goalie Martin Biron went 5-3 with a 2.58 goals-against average and .898 save percentage against the Penguins in the regular season, while Marc-Andre Fleury posted a 2-2 mark with a 2.01 GAA and .923 save percentage.

Keep in mind that R.J. Umberger, who was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets during the summer, led the Flyers in scoring against the Penguins last season with six goals and 11 points in eight games. Joffrey Lupul was second with 10 points (5 goals). Evgeni Malkin paced the Pens against the Flyers with 6 goals and 15 points in eight contests.

One surprising storyline for the Flyers has been the insertion of rookie defenseman Luca Sbisa along the blue line. The extremely poised Sbisa, drafted No. 19 in June, was a minus-1 after logging 16:27 of ice time and 22 shifts in a 4-3 loss to the Rangers on Saturday while playing alongside Lasse Kukkonen.

Centennial starts in Montreal -- Nothing like an Original Six rivalry to kick off the centennial for the Canadiens at Bell Centre.

After opening the season with three successive road games, Les Habitants (1-0-1) will face the Boston Bruins (1-1) on Wednesday to officially begin the 100 Years of Hockey campaign in their city.

The Bruins would like nothing more than to spoil the homecoming, particularly since the club is 0-10-0-1 against the Canadiens in their last 11 games. The last time Boston scored a victory against its Northeast Division rival in Montreal was Dec. 4, 2006 -- a 6-5 decision. The Bruins were outscored by Montreal, 38-16, in eight losses last season. The goals-against were the most allowed by a Bruins team against Montreal in a regular-season series since 1981-82, when it finished 0-7-1 while yielding 40 goals.

The Bruins opened their season with a thrilling 5-4 victory against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Friday night. The Canadiens earned their first victory of the season following a 6-1 triumph against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Hockey Fights Cancer -- To celebrate the start of the season, the NHL and NHLPA will host their annual Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month in October. The League-wide initiative includes numerous activities that involve all 30 clubs, players, management and fans, as well as the creation of Hockey Fights Cancer-themed merchandise, all with the goal of raising awareness and funds to find a cure for this dreadful disease.   

During October, each NHL club will host a Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night in its arena. Clubs will team with local and national cancer organizations to promote cancer awareness and raise funds. Clubs will hold on-ice presentations, 50/50 raffles, promotional giveaways, contests and offer discounted tickets. Tickets and arena suites will be donated to children's hospitals and cancer-affiliated programs, and young patients will be involved with in-game opportunities, including rides on the Zamboni, puck-drops, radio booth visits and player meet-and-greets. There also will be online, live and silent auctions of signed items, including helmets, sticks, jerseys and other team merchandise. Several clubs will continue to promote awareness by participating in local hospital visits and fundraising runs and walks.

Fans are asked to visit team Web sites for a complete schedule of the events taking place during Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month. Additionally, refer back to for additional information throughout the month.
Ovie vs. Sid -- Two of the NHL's brightest superstars will take center stage Thursday at Mellon Arena when Washington's Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby face each other for the first time this season.

Ovechkin, who signed a nine-year contract extension in January, led the League with 65 goals and 112 points in 82 games last season. He accounted for 27.3 percent of Washington's total offense while winning the Hart, Rocket Richard, Lester B. Pearson and Art Ross trophies. Crosby earned the Art Ross, Lester B. Pearson and Hart trophies in 2006-07 when he totaled 36 goals and 120 points in 79 contests.

Crosby was limited to 53 games last season as a result of a nagging high ankle sprain, and posted 24 goals and 72 points.

Holik's happy return -- Former Atlanta Thrashers captain Bobby Holik will return to Philips Arena on Thursday, but in a New Jersey Devils uniform.

Holik, the captain of the Thrashers last season, signed with the Devils during the offseason.

Holik spent 10 seasons with the Devils (1993-2002) before signing a free-agent contract with the Rangers. He signed with the Thrashers following the work stoppage.
"Atlanta was a great city and they have great people and fans. I really give two thumbs up to the city and their effort to promote NHL hockey there."
Bobby Holik
''It was a great experience playing in the south, especially since I'm from Eastern Europe," the Czech Republic native told "Atlanta was a great city and they have great people and fans. I really give two thumbs up to the city and their effort to promote NHL hockey there. General Manager Don Waddell is a class guy and we were going in the right direction during the first couple of years, but still, this was a business decision I made coming back to Jersey. Until 2006-07 (when Atlanta qualified for the playoffs), it really wasn't too memorable an experience as far as hockey goes, but I'll always remember the good times I had in Atlanta."

Holik's best statistical campaign in Atlanta was last season, when he amassed 34 points in 82 games. The 37-year-old Holik, in fact, hasn't missed a game in two straight seasons.

"I was happy when I heard Bobby was coming back to Jersey," said Devils forward Patrik Elias. "We need the voice that Bobby has, his experiences and good perspective. He tells it like it is and, although it's negative at times, it's negative to make everyone better and that makes a difference. He tries to encourage everybody, and if you're a player who could do things better or has more potential, he'll tell you. He's a lot tougher than people give him credit for. You ask anyone in this Devils locker room and they'll tell you, he's very tough to play against."

Battle of Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames will renew their bitter rivalry this weekend with a scheduled home-and-home series.

On Friday, the Oilers (1-0) visit the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, and on Saturday the Flames (0-1-1) travel to Rexall Place in Edmonton.

The teams split the season series in 2007-08, winning four games apiece, but the Flames' 3-2 victory against the Oilers on April 1 eliminated Edmonton from Stanley Cup playoff contention.
The rivalry was at its most intense in the 1980s, when the two teams combined to win six Stanley Cups in seven seasons (1984-90), five of which went to the Oilers during a streak in which an Albertan team was in the Final for eight straight seasons. (1983-90).

Tube time -- Here's a look at this week's nationally televised schedule:

Montreal at Philadelphia, RDS
Vancouver at Washington, VERSUS

Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, VERSUS, TSN2/RIS
Colorado at Calgary, TSN

Boston at Montreal, RDS, TSN
Edmonton at Anaheim, TSN

Washington at Pittsburgh, RDS
Vancouver at Detroit, TSN

Phoenix at Ottawa, RIS

Phoenix at Montreal, RDS, CBC
Boston at Ottawa, CBC
Toronto at Pittsburgh, CBC, NHL Network-U.S.
Calgary at Edmonton, CBC, NHL Network-U.S.

Carolina at Anaheim, NHL Network-Canada

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