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Published: Saturday, 5/24/2008

Cup goalies block criticism

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

DETROIT - Chris Osgood and Marc-Andre Fleury have faced their fair share of criticism during their careers.

As the starting goaltenders in this year's Stanley Cup finals, they also appear to be getting the last laugh.

Both had to win back their jobs this season. Osgood took over for Dominik Hasek in Game 5 of the Red Wings' opening round matchup with Nashville and Fleury beat out Ty Conklin in Pittsburgh after returning from an injury in December.

Now, they are 1-2 in almost every statistical goaltending category in the playoffs.

Osgood leads in goals-against average with a 1.60 mark, while Fleury is tops in save percentage (.938) and shutouts (3).

For Osgood, the key was never losing confidence in himself while backing up Hasek.

"I never really looked at myself as a backup. Ever," Osgood said. "You don't want to fall into that trap. I always try to do what I need to do to make myself a better player and just to take what I knew before and add some new stuff to make myself a more complete player."

For Fleury, it was having a general manager that never lost hope in him when he was slow to regain his form following a mid-season ankle injury.

"The way I've been groomed in this position through [current Predators GM] David Poile is patience is a virtue here," Penguins GM Ray Shero said. "The kid has talent. If you get to know Marc-Andre, he's certainly a winning kid. And he's a great kid with a great work ethic. I'm glad we stuck with him. I think moving forward he'll have a great career for himself."

FRANZEN OUT: Although Red Wings GM Ken Holland was not so committal, forward Johan Franzen declared himself out for Game 1.

Franzen practiced full-go with the Red Wings yesterday for the first time in weeks but still needs time to get himself back into game shape.

Holland also said Franzen will see a doctor today to get another check-up and could be back for Game 2 on Monday.

"He's flying around, going 100 miles an hour," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "[He] looks like 100 bucks, no side effects. Looks to me like he's ready to play, but that's why I don't make those decisions."

Franzen has not played since Game 1 of the Western Conference finals against Dallas because of recurring headaches that were diagnosed as concussion-like symptoms.

Before being sidelined, Franzen was leading the league with a franchise-record 12 goals and in the midst of a five-game goal streak, causing him a great deal of frustration.

"I kind of made my peace with it after a while," Franzen said. "The team was playing great there, so that made things a little easier I guess."

WALLEYE AFFILIATION: Holland addressed the possibility of the Red Wings resuming an affiliation agreement with an ECHL team based in Toledo after the organization's long-time association with the Storm ended this season.

The Toledo Walleye are set to take the ice in the fall of 2009 in the new downtown sports arena, and there has been no announcement of which NHL teams they will have as their parent clubs.

"It's certainly something we would be open-minded to," Holland said. "It was a good affiliation. Obviously it's an hour down the road.

"For us when we had [the affiliation with the Storm], it was so convenient because there was almost like a triangle between Detroit, [AHL-affiliate] Grand Rapids and Toledo, and player movement was so easy between those three cities."



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