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Monday, March 3, 2003
Updated: March 5, 12:43 PM ET
Wings need big players, role players and a bit of luck

By EJ Hradek
ESPN The Magazine

With our old friend the octopus in mind, here are eight things that must come together for the Wings to bring another Cup to Hockeytown.

Curtis Joseph
The Red Wings will need Curtis Joseph to be clutch in the playoffs.
  • They must fight off the Blues and win the Central Division. That will ensure home ice advantage and a less dangerous opponent in the first round. The Central runner-up likely will face the powerful Avalanche in the opening round. Enough said.

  • Curtis Joseph must be a steady force in goal. When the Wings are right, they don't allow a ton of scoring chances. Still, they need a big save or two per period. Cujo must deliver in the clutch.

  • The Wings -- like all playoff hopefuls -- must avoid major injuries. During last season's run, they remained healthy enough to compete. If stud D-men Nicklas Lidstrom or Chris Chelios (who has battled a knee problem this season) were to go down, the Wings would be in deep trouble.

  • The big players must again play big. Steve Yzerman, returning from offseason knee surgery, must be up to speed by April. Brett Hull must score the big goal. Sergei Fedorov must bring his high-end A game. Brendan Shanahan must skate into the nasty areas of the ice and be a presence.

  • The Wings role players have to come through as they have in the past. Grind liners Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty must agitate and provide the occasional goal.

  • The club's young players have to be a factor. That means Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Jiri Fischer (if he gets back from his early-season knee injury) can't disappear at crunch time.

  • Head coach Dave Lewis must push the right buttons during his first playoff run as a head coach. That might be tough with the shadow of Scotty Bowman hanging over the bench.

  • Finally, they have to have a little luck. Every Cup winner does. You know, like a 90-foot slapper that eludes an opposing goalie. Or when a world-class netminder drops a puck right in his crease at a key moment. Those are the kind of breaks that can make all the difference.

    E.J. Hradek writes hockey for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at ej.hradek@espnmag.com.