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Osgood says Red Wings more versatile this year

CHRIS Osgood has seen up close what it takes to win consecutive Stanley Cups, and believes the Detroit Red Wings are poised to do it in the NHL finals series that was set to begin late yesterday.

Osgood was Detroit's No. 1 goaltender in 1998 after being the backup on their 1997 championship team. He won his third Cup last year against the Pittsburgh Penguins and will go for No. 4 in this series.

Osgood claims these Red Wings are more talented and versatile than they were the last time they won back-to-back Cups.

"This team can win in more different ways than those teams could," Osgood said on Friday in Detroit. "We can win ugly. We can win a wide-open game. We can win the grind-them-out games."

Osgood, though, believes the Penguins pose a greater challenge than they did a year ago because they have learned how to play playoff hockey.

"They don't try to score as many pretty goals as they did last year," he said. "They're happier just to score the ugly, bang-it-in-the-net goals.

"We'll have to be ready for something different from them this season."

The NHL is ready for something different, too, by getting a championship rematch for the first time in a quarter-century.

Edmonton beat the four-time defending champion New York Islanders in 1984 after losing to them the previous year in the finals.

Pittsburgh hopes to follow the Oilers' path of losing against a powerhouse, which Detroit has become with four titles in 11 seasons, then winning the Cup the next season against the same team.

"We know what to do," said Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, who leads the playoffs with 14 goals. "Last year, that wasn't the case."

Detroit's Mike Babcock is the first coach to reach the Stanley Cup finals three times in a six-season span since Edmonton's Glen Sather two-plus decades ago.

Last year, he cherished winning the Cup, with his wife and kids soaking up the moment with him in Pittsburgh after Game 6. In Babcock's debut season as an NHL coach, he and the Anaheim Ducks lost to New Jersey in Game 7 of the 2003 finals.

The Penguins have surged since February when coach Michel Therrien, who took them to the finals last year, was fired. Pittsburgh was in 10th place in the Eastern Conference and in danger of missing the playoffs.

Dan Bylsma took over as head coach and led an 18-3-4 finish that vaulted the Penguins to becoming a fourth-seeded team in the Eastern Conference.


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