Red Wings Notebook: Hossa can't dodge spotlight

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Once again, Marian Hossa stands on the precipice.

The Detroit winger was on the losing end of the Stanley Cup final last year with the Penguins. Tomorrow night, for the second game in a row, he faces the chance to beat his former team and validate his decision to jump to the Red Wings via free agency last summer.

Because it is Game 7, there will be a definitive outcome, so he also could wind up on the losing end and watch his former teammates accept the Stanley Cup.

In Game 6 Tuesday, the Penguins staved off elimination with a 2-1 win at Mellon Arena.

"I think in their building he hasn't been as good," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said of Hossa, who had no points and a plus-minus rating of minus-1 in the three road games this series.

"I think he's way better at home than he's been in their building, for whatever reason. To me, what an opportunity for him. This is why he came here. Here's an opportunity. You have Game 7."

Hossa, who has three assists, is plus-2 and has been a physical presence at times in three home games this series, has his teammates to help if emotion or nerves are a problem.

"Hossa wants to be the guy," center Kris Draper said. "There's no doubt. He's a world-class hockey player. He's a clutch hockey player. And he wants to be the difference.

"We know how bad he wants this. Over the next couple of days if Hossa needs to talk to anybody, we're here to listen. Anything that he needs, we're obviously going to do to make sure that the situation now is all we need for everyone to come out and have the game of their lives. And Hossa has the same goal as the rest of us.

"We know Hossa's going to come with everything that he has. He wants this just as bad as all of us, and he'll be ready to go, no doubt."

Babcock high on young stars

Even while he has been wrapped up in guiding his team to a 15-7 record over the past two months, Babcock can appreciate the scope of the NHL playoffs this spring.

In particular, he believes the NHL is benefiting from so many star players who have gotten to spend at least some time in the spotlight.

That includes players in this series -- Red Wings forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and goaltender Chris Osgood, and Penguins centers Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

Detroit along the way knocked off stars such as Rick Nash of Columbus and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews of Chicago. The Penguins got past Alex Ovechkin of Washington and Eric Staal of Carolina.

"I think it's been real good," Babcock said. "No. 1, there are great young stars in the game. And they've now come of age a little bit where they get to play in the playoffs. I think of Rick Nash or Malkin or Crosby or Ovechkin, that group there. Obviously, Datsyuk and Zetterberg, guys like this are at the forefront.

"There have been some great series and really good battles and some Game 7s and some real good excitement.

"I just think when I look at the whole thing, we're doing a real good job of selling a great game -- and we have a great game. We've got to continue to do that. I think all sport is driven in some ways by star power. And I like the fact that the star power in our game right now is at a high, high end."

Lidstrom joins elite club

Lidstrom, 38, played in his 234th Stanley Cup playoff game Tuesday night, moving him into a tie for fourth place all time with Claude Lemieux.

Lidstrom is expected to take over fourth place alone tomorrow night and trails Mark Messier (236), Patrick Roy (247) and current Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios, who has the record (266).


Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com .


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