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The Blackhawks' long hiatus should also help. "A lot of our players had longer summers than they've had in a long time," Bowman says. "So they're ready to go and hungry to get back to the level we were at the year before."
COACH Mike Babcock (7th season)
LAST SEASON 47-25-10 (3rd in West); lost in second round to Sharks
KEY ADDITIONS D Mike Commodore, G Ty Conklin, D Ian White
KEY LOSSES C Kris Draper, G Chris Osgood, D Brian Rafalski
For the Red Wings, the embodiment of excellence with 20 straight playoff appearances and two Stanley Cups in the last decade, watching three mainstays retire constitutes a tumultuous off-season. Detroit bade farewell to center Kris Draper, goalie Chris Osgood and defenseman Brian Rafalski, but could at least rejoice in the knowledge that 41-year-old defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who won his seventh Norris Trophy last season, would be back for another year.
"Getting Lidstrom back was obviously a significant, positive decision for us," G.M. Ken Holland says. "It'd be incredibly difficult to think we'd lose Brian Rafalski and Nick Lidstrom in one off-season and not experience some sort of significant dip."
Changes are in store for the Red Wings. Lidstrom (below) will now pair with 27-year-old Ian White, a free agent who may not have Rafalski's touch but who adds a physical edge.