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Central
Brian Cazeneuve
October 13, 2008
DETROIT Red Wings
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October 13, 2008

Central

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DETROIT
Red Wings

LAST SEASON
54-21-7, 1st in West; won Stanley Cup

KEY ADDITIONS
G Ty Conklin, F Marian Hossa

KEY LOSSES
G Dominik Hasek

WHEN GOALIE Chris Osgood was asked during last spring's playoffs whether there was anything his team did not have, he snappily replied, "A weakness." That answer still holds for the defending champs, who seem to do everything well, including make life easy on Osgood; he led the NHL with a 2.09 goals-against average last season even though some nights he barely punched his time clock.

The Wings won the Presidents' Trophy with a robust 115 points and were so dominant that they led the NHL in most shots taken per game (34.4) and in fewest shots allowed (23.5), outshooting opponents in 71 of 82 games. They skated with skill, backchecked, blocked shots, led the league in face-off percentage (53.3) and played with discipline: They took the league's fewest fighting majors (21), did not incur a game misconduct and were called for just two bench minors (all but one other team had at least six).

There's no drop-off in sight. Detroit returns 244 of its 252 goals from last season and added All-Star winger Marian Hossa, the off-season's most coveted free agent. "We have guys on our third line who could be on the first line with most teams," says veteran forward Kirk Maltby. The team also goes nine deep on the back line and still has Osgood, who has quietly amassed the highest winning percentage (.631) of any goalie with at least 350 wins.

Now that Dominik Hasek is gone (to retirement, again), Osgood has the starting job to himself; free-agent signee Ty Conklin will give him the occasional breather. The abundance of talent at other positions, however, means that, as captain Nicklas Lidstrom points out, "We will have a lot of competition for ice time this season." With the Red Wings likely to have the weak Central all but wrapped up by Christmas, that may be the club's most compelling competition until the playoffs.

CHICAGO
Blackhawks

LAST SEASON
40-34-8, 10th in West

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