Winning the only thing for Wings

Andreas Lilja of the Flyers holds down Henrik Zetterberg of the Red Wings early in their pre-season...

Andreas Lilja of the Flyers holds down Henrik Zetterberg of the Red Wings early in their pre-season game Thursday at the John Labatt Centre. (MIKE HENSEN/QMI Agency)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:22 AM ET

LONDON, ONT. - It must be the start of another NHL season because it's same old, same old for the Detroit Red Wings.

Same old questions, same old expectations and when the season is done, probably the same old success.

That's the way things work for the most successful franchise in recent memory.

The Wings were in London Thursday participating in the annual NHL exhibition game at the John Labatt Centre.

They defeated the 'hometown' Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in a shootout in front of 7,427.

It took 16 shooters with both teams scoring once. Finally Ian White was able to beat Michael Leighton in the Flyers net.

For an exhibition game it was a pretty good show, especially the final two periods.

Both teams iced good exhibition lineups with the Wings having at least 10 players who should start the season with them.

There was little doubt what team was the favourite and it was wearing fire engine red uniforms.

The Wings are heading into the season with the same questions being asked. There's no doubt they have enough talent to challenge for a division title, but do they have enough legs to get them deep into the playoffs?

Yet the Wings head into the season with the same expectations ... win.

There was a little housecleaning from last year.

Gone from last year's team are Kris Draper, Chris Osgood, Brian Rafalski, Mike Modano and Ruslan Salei.

New to the team are Chris Conner, Mike Commodore and Ian White.

The core names are familiar, led by Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Johann Franzen, Valtteri Filppula, Daniel Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi, Niklas Kronwall and others.

"We've been rebuilding since the lockout (2004-05)," Red Wings' coach Mike Babcock said.

He talked about the goings and comings of different players.

"Yzerman and Shanahan left what is going to happen next and we got Zetterberg and Datsyuk and now Draper and Rafalski are gone and you wonder what is going to happen next," Babcock said. "I could tell you there's lots of teams in this league that are good and are good once and then you don't hear from them for four or five years. That's not been our plan."

The Wings have won 304 games in the last six years.

"No one has done that in recent years," Babcock said. "Our goal is to find a way to do it again."

It is the time for younger players like Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm to make a move.

Helm is on the verge of stepping into the limelight.

Thursday he showed what he brings to the table for the Wings. Killing a penalty, he broke in from the Flyers blueline, blew by a defenceman and fired the puck past netminder Michael Leighton.

He was in the middle of everything all night.

"I don't want to put any extra pressure on myself, but I know they expect me to continue to get better," Helm said. "I don't know if I can be a guy that scores 20, 25 goals out of the gate but I don't think that's too far out of my range."

The Red Wings will count on him a lot more.

"When we go through our group we need Helm and Abdelkader to be bigger pieces,'' Babcock said. "But then I'd say Franzen needs to have a big year, Cleary, Filppula need to have a big year, Kronwall, Stuart. Ericsson. Hudler needs a bounce back year."

By the end of last season's playoff run, the Wings were being held together by baling twine and duct tape. They had a lot of injuries and simply ran out of gas.

They have more possibility this year. The Wings are well under the salary cap. Good news for later in the season should they need it or next year.

"A lot of our guys are 30, 31, 32, in the prime of their careers," Babcock said. "It's the 24's, 25s that need to get to the next level."

The Wings will continue to operate under the lens of a microscope.

"There's always pressure," Babcock said.

E-mail morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca, read Morris's column or follow MoDaCoatLFPress on Twitter.

Wings 4, Flyers 3, SO

Detroit goals: Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula, Ian White

Philadelphia goals: James van Riemsdyk 2, Wayne Simmonds.


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