Red Wings enjoying depth while they can - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Red Wings enjoying depth while they can

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Columbus at Detroit, Western Conference quarterfinal, Game Two, 6 p.m. EDT

DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Red Wings were expected to get

knocked down a few pegs when the NHL created a salary cap four

years ago.

Detroit didn't get the memo.

The defending Stanley Cup champions got off to a good start in

their quest to repeat, beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1.

Detroit won its playoff-opening game in large part because of

its knack for drafting and developing players to complement

stars.

Columbus contained Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, but

allowed the Red Wings' third line of Jiri Hudler, Valtteri

Filppula and Mikael Samuelsson to combine for a goal and four

assists.

"If you walked into Game 1 and said, 'Datsyuk's line and

Zetterberg's line didn't get a point,' you'd be pretty happy,"

Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said Friday, a day before Game

2 in Detroit. "But good teams find ways to beat you with other

people."

The Red Wings have been great for a long time -- winning three

titles in 11 seasons -- because the Ken Holland-led front office

has unearthed players from around the globe such as Datsyuk and

Zetterberg and wisely spent owner Mike Ilitch's money.

When Holland had to slash about half his payroll in 2005,

following the lockout, he barely blinked and the franchise

didn't miss a beat.

It helps that stars such as Marian Hossa were willing to play in

Detroit on a one-year contract, hoping to hoist a Cup, and

others like Zetterberg accepted long-term, salary-cap friendly

contracts.

After signing Zetterberg to a 12-year deal and Johan Franzen to

an 11-year contract this season, Holland acknowledges he might

not be able to assemble a team as good as this one again.

"This is probably the best collection of talent you'll see on

one team in this era," Holland said. "We can keep any player we

want this season, but we're going to lose some players. I've

shut down negotiations with our players on new contracts right

now because our focus is on the playoffs.

"But we're going to have some hard decisions to make this

summer."

Hossa, Hudler and Filppula will, too, because they're eligible

for free agency this offseason.

"I'm not really thinking about it now," Hudler said. "It's kind

of a distraction.

"Obviously, this is my home right now and I want to stay."

The Blue Jackets want to stick around in the playoffs and hope

getting jitters out of the way will help them get back to their

hard-hitting ways.

"It was the franchise's first playoff game, a lot of guys were

nervous," forward Rick Nash said. "It's nice that it's over and

done with."

Even though the seventh-seeded Blue Jackets seem overmatched by

second-seeded Detroit, making its 18th straight postseason

appearance, their players and coach sound confident.

"The series doesn't change until somebody loses a home game

because it forces a team into uncomfortable territory,"

Hitchcock said.

Blue Jackets defenseman Jan Hejda said the key to earning a

split before the series shifts to Columbus for Games 3 and 4

will be style of play.

"Really, it's not about what we can do against Datsyuk,

Zetterberg or their third line," Hejda said. "We just need to

focus on ourselves, checking deep in the zone and causing

turnovers like they did to us in Game 1."

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