Wings Come Home Just in Time

By: AP
By: AP

DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Red Wings are about to raise another Stanley Cup banner to the crowded rafters at Joe Louis Arena.
They will take the ice Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs for the start of what should be an entertaining and successful season.
Just in time.
Detroit sports fans need an emotional lift after being disappointed by the underachieving Tigers, disgusted with the lowly Lions and discouraged by the start of the Rich Rodriguez era at Michigan.
The Red Wings can't fix the woes of those teams of course, but they can make it a little easier to pick up the newspaper, check out sports-related Web sites or watch TV highlights.
Detroit had the top hockey team by far during the last regular season and proved to be best in the playoffs, beating Pittsburgh and hoisting the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in 11 seasons.
Then, the storied franchise lured one of the best players away from the runner-up Penguins, signed Pittsburgh's backup goaltender and did enough to keep key skaters such as defenseman Brad Stuart and forward Valtteri Filppula.
It's difficult to take an objective look at the Red Wings and come up with reasons why they aren't better than they were last season.
General manager Ken Holland acknowledged the team is better, but he knows that doesn't guarantee much.
"You have to be healthy and at your best when the playoffs roll around," Holland said. "But we can't worry about that right now. The key is to take the regular season seriously with great attention to detail and work ethic."
Next year, Detroit seems set up to take a step back because re-signing Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa and Johan Franzen doesn't appear to be possible.
"I've crunched the numbers until I'm blue in the face for next season, and I'm convinced we're going to lose at least one player we'd like to keep," Holland said. "We were able to do what we did this offseason because we were under the cap last year, and the cap went up about seven million. That gave us a chance to add a premier player like Hossa, but only because he wanted to play here for less money than he could've made elsewhere."
Hossa, a standout winger, scored at least 29 goals the past eight seasons and has 299 in his career.
As a player facing the Red Wings, he was always impressed with their talent.
After joining the team, he found out there's a reason they're so good.
"This team practices hard, and they work out hard," he said. "I can learn a lot from being around these guys."
Steve Yzerman led by example as a player, putting himself through strenuous workouts after practices and games, and his work ethic has been passed down to current players such as Nicklas Lidstrom to lead a new wave of young skaters.
"If we don't continue to work as we have, we won't look as good as we do on paper," coach Mike Babcock cautioned. "You can't win a Stanley Cup in training camp or the first 20 games, but you can set up a foundation that sets you up for success."
Michigan State is having success in football, earning a spot in The Associated Press poll for the first time in three years, but some of its fans are worried about being let down as they have been in the past.
The Pistons, who open their season in three weeks, kept their nucleus together after threatening to break it up. They simply seem to be closer to good than great.
The Spartans and Pistons can distract some from thinking about the Tigers, Lions or Wolverines, but not quite as well as the Red Wings, who are about to drop the puck in what should be a fascinating quest for the Cup.


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