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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, October 9th (All times eastern)

Toronto Maple Leafs (0-0-0) at Detroit Red Wings (0-0-0), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Detroit Red Wings will begin their Stanley Cup title defense tonight as they welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs to Joe Louis Arena for the opening contest of the regular season for both teams.

Detroit's recent championship was their fourth Stanley Cup title in the last 11 seasons and this year it could become the first club to repeat as champions since the Steve Yzerman-led Red Wings won consecutive titles in 1997 and '98.

Tonight the crowd in the Motor City will witness the raising of the Wings' latest championship banner.

The Red Wings were the class of the NHL during the 2007-08 regular season, winning the Presidents' Trophy for the fourth time in six campaigns.

This year, Detroit is returning basically the same team that won it all last spring and has now added prolific winger Marian Hossa, who will make his official debut as a Red Wing tonight.

Hossa had somewhat of a disappointing regular season, recording 66 points (29g, 37a) in 72 combined games with Atlanta and Pittsburgh in 2007-08, but had a total of 192 points in his previous two years with the Thrashers.

However, the 29-year-old Slovakian did help shed the notion that he isn't a big-game player by posting 12 goals and 14 assists in 20 playoff games with the Penguins. Shortly after the postseason, Hossa decided to join the Red Wings, signing a one-year, $7.4 million with the team who downed Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup final.

Hossa's scoring touch should make a dangerous team even more formidable, as he joins forwards like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk and defensemen such as Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski.

After using a goaltending platoon over the last few seasons, the Red Wings are sticking with Chris Osgood as the main option this year.

Both Osgood and Dominik Hasek had strong regular seasons for Detroit in 2007-08 and head coach Mike Babcock opted to name Hasek as the starter for the playoffs. However, after the six-time Vezina winner Hasek went 2-2 in the first four games of the opening series against Nashville, Osgood was handed the starting reins, and the rest was history.

Osgood went 14-4 with a 1.55 goals against average, .930 save percentage and three shutouts during the 2008 postseason. For Osgood, it was his third Stanley Cup title, all of which have come with Detroit, and his second as the team's starting goaltender.

Hasek opted to retire after the season ended.

Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs begin this season with an attempt to shed the disappointment that has plagued the team since the lockout. Toronto has been left out of the playoffs in each season since the work stoppage wiped out the entire 2004-05 campaign, marking the first time in the franchise's storied history that the team has missed the postseason in three straight years.

Last year, the Leafs finished 12th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference with 83 points.

This summer, Toronto said goodbye to familiar face likes Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe and Andrew Raycroft in order to get the franchise back to basics.

The task for the Leafs franchise now is to remain patient and try to stay with the youth movement. It will be tempting to placate a small portion of the Toronto fans with big free-agent signings, but most Maple Leafs fans are savvy enough to know that this rebuilding process, if done right, is the best way to get their team back on the right track.

Toronto has won two of the last three meetings with the Red Wings, but Detroit has taken two straight and four of the last five encounters in the Motor City.

10/09 10:45:54 ET


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