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Wings have look of (another) champion

by Larry Wigge / Detroit Red Wings
In today's world, everything comes with a disclaimer. You know. "Beware ...

Even the Stanley Cup comes with a warning, especially if you want to repeat as the NHL champions. "Winning one championship is difficult. Winning twice is twice as difficult," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland recently said.

"It's a hard thing to do," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom agreed. "You've got to have a hungry group of veterans and young guys who are on the same page."

Coach Mike Babcock won't let his team forget how hard last season's October to June marathon was to complete.

"It's a journey. We know because we've been through it. Baby steps ... keep on keepin' on," Babcock explained. "We didn't win last year because of our skill. We won because we worked hard.

"You don't just turn it on. There's no switch. You have to earn the right to feel good about yourself ... and that doesn't automatically carry over from one season to another."
Good memories. Accomplishments you'd like to build on. Attention to details. All the other hard-work anecdotes. All true. But repeat? Hmmmm.

Since the Pittsburgh Penguins won back-to-back in 1991 and '92, the only team in the ensuing 15 seasons to repeat was the Red Wings in 1997 and '98.

But these Red Wings are different, and yet they're the same. They talk about competition being built on measuring sticks -- like their 8-2-2 start, including an impressive 6-1-1 on the road. And they are also pointing to another measuring stick -- meeting the Penguins, who the Wings beat for the Cup last spring, in Detroit on Tuesday.

"I still see that hunger, that focus in the eyes of the guys on this team," Lidstrom said with a keen "I-want-to-win-another-one" look in his eyes.

This is a championship team that added an all-world forward in Marian Hossa and a capable backup goaltender in Ty Conklin -- both of whom were with the Penguins last season.

"To me, they could have gone anywhere, but the fact they wanted to come to our team says something," Lidstrom said. "On paper, I think we're better with those guys in our lineup.

"I know that doesn't spell victory. But after winning in 1997 and '98 and 2002, I think I've learned that to win again you have to have a unique work ethic and chemistry -- and I'm starting to see chemistry with this team."

With Babcock there to keep his foot on the gas pedal, I'm ready to say the Red Wings are the team to repeat.

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