Hossa, a former Pen, hopes hostility is no distraction
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DETROIT — Marian Hossa is exactly where he expected to be, back in the Stanley Cup final. What the sniper-for-hire didn't anticipate was that the club he snubbed would be waiting for him.
When Hossa left the Penguins after their loss in the Stanley Cup final to sign a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings last July, he said it was because he wanted "the best chance to win the Cup."
Now, he gets to live up to his words. Or eat them.
"It's a little ironic and really unique because who would say the finals are going to be repeated with the same teams," Hossa said, "except I changed teams and came to Detroit and I am playing against the team I spent a few months with. Right now, I'm on this side and I'm trying to help the team win the Stanley Cup."
Will playing the Penguins add incentive?
"Being in the finals, that's motivation," Hossa said. "Last year, I lost it. This is another chance. It's going to be hard, but it's a good chance."
Hossa's defection promises to be a prominent storyline of the series, and he's hoping it doesn't develop into a sideshow for the reigning champion Red Wings entering Game 1 at 8 p.m. Saturday here at Joe Louis Arena.
"I hope not," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "If he's mentally tough, it will not be a distraction. I don't know why he'd let it be a distraction. ... He made a decision to come to our team. I think he's very happy with the decision he made. I know we're happy to have him. All the power to him."
Hossa held all the cards last summer as an unrestricted free agent, drawing a reported nine-year, $80 million offer from the Edmonton Oilers and a seven-year deal worth as much as $50 million from the Penguins after scoring 12 goals and 26 points in 20 playoff games.
Instead, he signed with the Red Wings for $7.45 million. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound right wing led Detroit with 40 goals in the regular season, and has six goals and 12 points in 16 playoff games this year.
If Hossa's choice caused any bitterness in his former dressing room, the Penguins aren't giving any bulletin-board material in return.
"I think it was made to be a big deal," said captain Sidney Crosby, who centered the first line with Hossa. "There was never really an issue in here. He made his choice, and that was it."
While Hossa's choice was a blow to Crosby's line, it freed up money to sign other free agents like defenseman Brooks Orpik and make trade-deadline deals for veteran wingers Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz.
"It was funny. When we first got him, everyone was like, 'Oh, he's just a rental player. He's unrestricted after this year,'" Orpik said of Hossa, who was acquired in a trade deadline deal with the Atlanta Thrashers. "When we got him, no one had any expectations (of keeping him) at all. And then he played so well everyone kind of turned on him when he didn't come back."
When the series shifts back to Mellon Arena for Games 3 and 4, Hossa will undoubtedly encounter a hostile crowd. The fans who cheered him wildly last season will boo mercilessly, just as they did every time he touched the puck Feb. 8 in a 3-0 victory that included a goal by Hossa.
"I'm sure it's going to be a hostile environment for him," Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart said. "I think it will make him a better player. That will be his motivation. It's going to be one of those things that's exciting to watch play out, but he'll have that extra motivation for himself, definitely."
Orpik echoed that notion, cautioning that "if our fans want to boo him, I don't know how much good it's going to do us" and went so far as to say that he would welcome Hossa with the Penguins.
"I'd take him back in a second," Orpik said. "Somebody just asked me if I was excited to play against him. I said, 'No, not at all.' He's so big and strong and so skilled, he's a really tough matchup for everybody."
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