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NHL: Red Wings favored again

Associated Press
Now that the Detroit Red Wings have wrapped their octopus tentacles around the Stanley Cup, don’t expect the 11-time champions to let it go anytime soon.
Marian Hossa and the Pittsburgh Penguins gave it their best shot last spring before falling short in the finals. Hossa saw the writing on the wall, and didn’t care about extra zeros on his check, so he jumped from the Steel City to Hockeytown for a shot at the title.
“He loves winning and he believes that that’s the team that can do it for him,” former Penguins teammate Jordan Staal said. “Hopefully, in the playoffs we see him again and we beat him. … He believes he can win with that team and we’ll see what happens.”
Hossa isn’t alone.
Powered by an offense that pays as much attention to defense without sacrificing scoring, the Red Wings rolled to their first title since 2002. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk combined for 74 goals as linemates and a staggering plus-71 rating.
Pair them with Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and three-time Cup-winning goalie Chris Osgood, and it’s easy to see how Detroit earned the best record in the regular season and rode the wave to the championship.
Adding Hossa ó who scored 29 goals while splitting last season with Atlanta and Pittsburgh ó makes the Red Wings that much more formidable.
The Penguins are one of four teams set to begin the NHL regular season this weekend in Europe, where they take on the Ottawa Senators in a two-game set in Sweden. The New York Rangers will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in a pair of games in the Czech Republic.
They will return home next week to join 25 other clubs trying to figure out a way to take down the Wings.
“It was just a bad feeling,” 21-year-old Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said of his first trip to the finals. “You can look at it two ways, getting that close and not accomplishing your dream, but you can also look at what a great run it was. Now I look back at it more as a memory. It’s too bad that’s how it ended up, but we’re all hoping to get back to the same scenario with a different result.”
For the second straight year, the NHL is beginning the regular season with games in Europe. In 2007, the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks got things going in London.
With so many NHL players coming from overseas, all this international goodwill could move the league to pursue a European division down the road. Such a move might be necessary as leagues such as the new KHL in Russia try to lure players with lucrative deals on the other side of the Atlantic.
Jaromir Jagr and former Senators goalie Ray Emery have already made the big move.
Once players become free agents, their next moves are often unpredictable. No one saw Hossa moving to the Red Wings, especially for only a one-year deal worth $7.45 million.
“The slate is clean now and we start fresh,” Crosby said. “We lost some guys but it’s up to us to make sure that we’re better for last year no matter who we bring in.”

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