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Pittsburgh vs. Detroit Preview

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (8-4-2-18) at Detroit Red Wings (9-2-2-20)

Where: Joe Louis Arena
When: Tuesday, November 11, 7 p.m.
Radio: WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV: Versus Network


Ignore the Hype: This game is getting a lot of attention due to the Stanley Cup rematch hype combined with the Marian Hossa situation. The Penguins downplayed both issues with the media but they all acknowledge that Detroit is the Cup measuring stick. Pittsburgh will have to forget the hoopla surrounding the game and just play hockey.

Bring It: You can’t make mistakes against a team as stacked as Detroit. At the same time, you can’t play scared and in awe of their talents. The best defense will be Pittsburgh's offense. Pittsburgh will have to attack, attack, attack. As the late Herb Brooks once said, “When you see a bear in the woods, look him in the eye and then shoot him.”
What’s left to say about the Detroit Red Wings? They’re the defending Stanley Cup Champions – a fact Penguins fans know all too painfully well – and they are the favorite to repeat. The Wings have won four titles in the past 11 seasons. Oh, did we mention that they are the last team in the league to win back-to-back titles and have finished with the best regular season record in three of the past four seasons. What’s more, the Red Wings may actually be more dangerous this season with the additions made by general manager Ken Holland. The only major roster loss was Dominik Hasek’s retirement, but Holland added a quality backup in Ty Conklin, and then added the best available free agent, the two-way, dynamic sniper Marian Hossa – again, a fact Penguins fans know all too painfully well.

The Red Wings are off to one of the best starts in franchise history with a 9-2-2 mark. In fact, they’ve only lost once in regulation in their past 12 games. The Red Wings had their Stanley Cup banner raising celebration ruined with a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maples. Detroit responded by going 7-0-2 in the next nine games. The only other team to beat the Red Wings in regulation is the San Jose Sharks – the only team with a better winning record.
The newest faces in Detroit’s lineup are a familiar pair to Pittsburgh. The Red Wings inked two former Penguins, Marian Hossa and Ty Conklin, each to one-year contracts. Hossa declined signing a contract with Pittsburgh and opted for Detroit because he felt they had a better chance at winning a Stanley Cup. So far he’s been out to prove he made the right decision with a spectacular start. He recorded his second highest point total in October in the past eight years with 15 points (6G-9A) in 11 games. Conklin played admirably last season when Marc-Andre Fleury went down to injury. His play kept the Penguins above water until Fleury returned.
Hossa is the Red Wings’ leading scorer with eight goals and nine assists for 17 points, ranking seventh most in the NHL as of Monday afternoon. He’s playing on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom. Datsyuk, who is second on the team (tied) with 13 points (3G-10A), is a reliable two-way forward. Datsyuk won his third Lady Byng Trophy last year and posted a plus-41 rating. Holmstrom is a big body who is dangerous on the power play, netting four goals with the man-advantage in October. He’s gone scoreless in his last seven games and is due for a big night.

The second line consists of Henrik Zetterberg centering for Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula. Zetterberg won the Conn Smythe Trophy last season as playoff MVP after scoring 27 points and registering a plus-16 in 22 postseason games. Franzen may have been the most dominant player in last year’s postseason, notching 13 goals and 18 points in 16 games. If not for a lingering concussion, Franzen may have won the Conn Smythe. He is currently recovering from an injury to his left knee that he suffered on Oct. 25. But he is expected to return against the Penguins. Filppula had a breakout season with 19 goals and 36 points last season and should only improve playing on the second line.

Veterans Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby represent the old guard for the Red Wings. Draper is a faceoff specialist and will handle the third line with Mikael Samuelsson and Dan Cleary. Samuelsson, another former Penguin, has 10 points this season. Matby is a grinder who sees action on the fourth line with Jiri Hudler and Tomas Kopecky. Longtime Red Wing Darren McCarty is still with the Wings even after he cleared waivers.
Niklas Lidstrom is still one of the best, if not the best, defensemen in the league despite being 38 years old. Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski pair up as one of the best duos in the NHL. Rafalski has 13 points this season, tied for second most on the team. Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall add a physical presence on the blue line. Kronwall established himself as an elite hitter and Stuart decided to sign with Detroit after being acquired by the Red Wings at last season’s trade deadline. Andreas Lilja is playing alongside prospect Derek Meech. Holland thinks highly of Meech’s potential and the 24-year-old defenseman supplanted veteran Brett Lebda in the lineup. Chris Chelios cracked his fibula six weeks ago against Montreal. He’s started skating again and plans on practicing with the team this week. However, even if healthy, Chelios will find it difficult to crack into a defensive lineup that is already seven-men deep.
Chris Osgood has played his way back from obscurity to the top of the world. After brief stints with the N.Y. Islanders and St. Louis Blues, Osgood returned to Detroit after the lockout to be a backup for the team that he once led to a Stanley Cup championship. Three seasons later, he would replace Hall-of-Famer Dominik Hasek in net and lead Detroit to another title. It was a good story during the Cup run. But now he enters the season as the clear-cut No. 1 goalie for a stacked team that’s favored to win. There is more pressure on Osgood to prove he’s an upper-echelon netminder and to help hang the franchise’s 12th championship banner.

Ty Conklin went from AHL goaltender, to backup and even starter for the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Penguins. Conklin shined with an 18-8-5 record, 2.51 goals against average and .923 save percentage. He may have salvaged Pittsburgh’s season when Marc-Andre Fleury was lost to injury. He signed a one-year deal to make a run for a Cup and is a serviceable backup. He’s also proven he can be a starter when called upon. Conklin should keep Osgood fresh. That said, it will be interesting how head coach Mike Babcock divvies up the playing time. Osgood is 35 years old and hasn’t played more than 43 games in a season in four years. 
Hossa established himself as a Penguin killer during his tenure in Ottawa and Atlanta. He’s registered 39 points (9G-30A) in 34 games against Pittsburgh. He’s an excellent talent that plays hard in both ends of the ice. He would be a logical choice to spotlight based on his skills alone. It becomes a no-brainer when you add the drama of his offseason decision to bypass a contract offer from the Penguins and sign on with the team that beat them in the Stanley Cup Final, the Detroit Red Wings. It’s Hossa’s first game against Pittsburgh since the offseason adventure and all eyes will be on him during the matchup. He will no doubt want to put on a good performance for his former team and prove that he made the right decision in choosing Detroit over Pittsburgh.
“It’s our goal this year to win the Stanley Cup. We might have to go against (Detroit) in the end.”
- Max Talbot
9: The length of Marian Hossa’s season-long scoring streak, snapped Nov. 2 at Vancouver. During that nine-game stretch, Hossa compiled six goals and eight assists for 14 points. That nine games is also one game shy of Evgeni Malkin’s current 10-game scoring streak.

Author: Sam Kasan

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