(Sports Network) - A pair of players set to make homecomings at different stages in their career highlight tonight's battle between the hosting Detroit Red Wings and the Anaheim Ducks at Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings entered last season off of back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances, winning a championship in 2008 before losing a rematch with the Pittsburgh Penguins the following year. They then took a step backwards in 2009-10, having a string of eight straight Central Division titles snapped by the Chicago Blackhawks before losing in the second round of the playoffs to the San Jose Sharks.
Detroit, which has made 19 straight trips to the postseason, didn't retool a whole lot this offseason and return an excellent core that includes defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski as well as forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen.
Calder Trophy nominee Jimmy Howard is slated to begin the season as Detroit's top netminder after wrestling the job away from Chris Osgood a season ago. Howard posted a 37-15-10 record in 63 games with a 2.26 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.
While the Red Wings turnover was minimal, the home fans will be treated to one big debut tonight when Mike Modano steps on the ice for the first time in the regular season in a Red Wings sweater. The 40-year-old was born in Livonia, Michigan, but had spent his entire career with the Minnesota/Dallas franchise since being drafted by the club with the top overall pick of the 1988 draft.
Owner of 557 career goals and 1,359 points, the most ever by an American-born skater, Modano had just 14 tallies in 59 games last year, but will look to get Detroit off on the right foot tonight.
"Last year we had two games overseas [in Sweden] and we came home with no points and anyway you look at it, you want to talk about urgency setting in right away," said Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. "You'd like to get yourself established at home and you'd like to play well."
Detroit will also get Jiri Hudler back in the lineup tonight after he spent last season playing in Russia.
Hoping to spoil the Red Wings home opener will be the Ducks, who are set to debut another local favorite tonight in defenseman Cam Fowler. The 18-year-old was born in Windsor, Ontario, but grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and was grabbed by Anaheim with the 12th pick of the 2010 draft.
Fowler, who will play tonight in front of friends, family and a host of ex- teammates, notched 55 points in 55 games with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL a season ago.
"It's obviously a really exciting time for me and for my family and friends. You dream of the day you can suit up for an NHL hockey club. Now I get a chance to do it in front of my hometown and in front of my friends and family," Fowler told Anaheim's website. "It's just an unbelievable feeling. I have some nerves going right now, some jitters, but it's a huge opportunity for me, so I'm really excited."
Fowler, who is set to become the second-youngest player to step on the ice in Ducks history, is just the latest addition to a young Anaheim squad that missed the postseason for the first time since the lockout last year, but returns a trio of top scorers who are all 25 years old or younger in Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan.
Ryan was inked to a new five-year, $25 million deal this offseason after netting a team-high 35 goals last year, while Getzlaf was named the franchise's eighth captain on Sunday.
Jonas Hiller opens the season as the Ducks starting netminder after Jean- Sebastien Giguere was traded to Toronto in January of the 2009-10 season.
The Red Wings and Ducks split four meetings last year, with both teams winning twice at home. Detroit has won four straight and 13 of its last 14 at home over Anaheim.