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By Matt Canamucio, NHL Editor

(Sports Network) - It's safe to say that a new era of Detroit Red Wings hockey began this summer.

Not only did captain Steven Yzerman, the face of the franchise for more than two decades, hang up the skates and draw one step closer to enshrinement in Toronto, but left wing Brendan Shanahan left the club via free agency and signed with the NY Rangers.

The departures put further distance between this club and the teams that won Stanley Cups in 1997, 98 and 2002. Of course, while the Cup is the ultimate goal of every club, the new-look Red Wings should start small and simply try to shake their early-round playoff woes.

Last season, despite winning yet another Presidents' Trophy for having the league's best record, the Wings were knocked out of the first round for the second time in three seasons.

Of course, while Yzerman and Shanahan are gone, a familiar face from the 2001-02 champs did return this offseason. Goaltender Dominik Hasek, 41, signed on as a free agent after spending last campaign with Ottawa. Hasek has been injury-plagued throughout his brilliant career, and last season was no different. GM Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock only hope he has one more healthy run left in him.

Babcock enters his second season behind the Red Wings' bench, and his duty in 2006-07 is to somehow translate what he accomplishes in the regular season into the playoffs. Of course, there is hardly a guarantee that the team will be able to post the Western Conference's top record again after losing the players it did.

FORWARDS - Yzerman, while he was still the team's leader and face, was playing in a reduced role last season, so his impact won't be felt as much on the ice as it will in the dressing room. However, Shanahan skipped town on the heels of a 40-goal, 81-point season.

Whether Shanahan's production will be replaced collectively or by one player remains to be seen, but there is no question as to who the Red Wings' offensive leaders are. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg make up one of the most dynamic young duos in the NHL. Datsyuk led the club with 87 points (28g, 59a) in 05-06, while Zetterberg finished second with 39 tallies.

A player to keep an eye on is gritty power forward Tomas Holmstrom, who adapted well to the new NHL with a career-high 29 goals in 81 games a season ago. His stats included 11 power-play markers.

Others like Mikael Samuelsson (23g) and Jason Williams (21g) broke out with career years, and in all the only one of the 20-goal scorers from 2005-06 not coming back is Shanahan.

The Red Wings appear to be at their strongest up the middle, with Datsyuk, Robert Lang and Kris Draper making up the depth chart of the top three lines. Lang hopes to get back closer to the 30-goal mark, while Draper is attempting to re-gain the form that helped him win the Selke Trophy in 2004.

DEFENSE - While two key players up front are gone, the Wings can still count on four-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom. Lidstrom remains the textbook example of how to play NHL defense, and he continues to flourish as an offensive force as well. Last season he tallied 16 goals and a team-high 64 assists. He's the defense corps' power-play QB, top penalty killer and its everything.

Mathieu Schneider, meanwhile, has long been one of the top offensive rearguards around, and he flourished under the NHL's new rules. Schneider was among the team's 20-goal scorers with 21, and he notched a career-high 59 points.

Niklas Kronwall, who missed much of last season with a serious knee injury, is a former first-round pick who has high expectations on his shoulders. Danny Markov was signed as a free agent to play on one of the top two pairings, while 44-year-old Chris Chelios is still plugging along and will play a limited role.

Of course, the team will have to make do without the physical presence of the hulking Jiri Fischer. Fischer suffered a seizure while on the bench early last season and has yet to receive clearance to play.

GOALTENDING - Hasek is in and Manny Legace is out. That will be an upgrade, so long as the Dominator doesn't see his lingering groin problems pop up again. Hasek went 28-10-4 with a 2.09 goals-against average and ,925 save percentage in 43 appearances for Ottawa last season. He did not return to the ice after suffering an upper leg injury in the Czech Republic's Olympic opener.

Backing up Hasek is Chris Osgood, who will turn 34 in November. Osgood, who backed the team to the Stanley Cup in 1998, isn't what he once was but is a dependable backup, and could fill in nicely should Hasek go down.
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