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Blue Jackets face defending champs in first-ever playoff game

Columbus at Detroit, Western Conference quarterfinal, Game One, 7:00 p.m. EDT

DETROIT (AP) -- Chris Osgood would rather just play, take off
his gear, get stretched out, and enjoy some grub.

As the No. 1 goaltender for the Detroit Red Wings, doing
anything quietly is not an option.

"Everybody makes too big of a deal out of me," Osgood said
Thursday, sounding slightly exasperated. "I'm just part of the
team."

Despite Osgood's attempts to deflect attention, his play will be
pivotal in the Red Wings' quest to repeat as Stanley Cup
champions.

Detroit's chances improve if Osgood plays like he did last year,
showing this season was a fluke. He had a 2.09 goals-against
average last season and a league-low 1.55 GAA in the 2008
playoffs.

This season, his GAA ballooned to a career-high 3.09 and there
were doubts at times about whether he would start the playoffs
in net.

Osgood's first shot to show he's still an elite goalie comes
Thursday night at home in Game 1 against the Columbus Blue
Jackets.

Does it bother him that some hockey analysts are giving the Blue
Jackets the edge in net with rookie Steve Mason.

"Who are the people doing it?" Osgood asked.

Awkward pause.

"Go," Osgood said. "Next one."

Osgood's place in hockey history also brings out the testy side
of his personality.

"I'll worry about it when I'm done playing," the 37-year-old
Osgood said. "It's not easy to win in this league, otherwise
everybody would be doing it. I don't know how many goalies have
played here in the last 15 years that I've been here, but I'm
still here and I'm still wanted.

"That's what matters most and accounts for more than anything
else. I'm a winner. That's all I do."

His 389 career victories put him in a tie for 10th with Dominik
Hasek, who retired last year after losing his job to Osgood, and
trail only Martin Brodeur and Curtis Joseph among active
goalies.

Osgood will likely pass Grant Fuhr and Glenn Hall next season on
the all-time list, and he might have a shot at surpassing Tony
Esposito, Jacques Plante and Terry Sawchuk before his current
contract expires in two years.

He's won two Stanley Cups in Detroit as a starting goaltender in
1998 and 2008, and was a backup when the storied franchise won a
championship in 1997.

He has franchise records in the playoffs with 52 wins and 12
shutouts and his 62 postseason victories overall trail Joseph by
one and Hasek by three.

Osgood's accomplishments seem to make him a Hall of Fame-caliber
goalie, but helping the Red Wings hoist the Cup last year didn't
do much for naysayers who overlook him in conversations about
the game's best between the pipes.

"There's two goalies I know that are playing hockey in the
national league that have three Stanley Cups," Detroit coach
Mike Babcock bristled. "One's named Brodeur and one is named
Osgood. That's it."

Teammate Kirk Maltby chose to expound on the topic.

"His numbers are as good as anybody playing, other than Brodeur,
but the hockey world doesn't give him the acknowledgment he
deserves," Maltby said. "When he left here, he helped St. Louis
and the New York Islanders get in the playoffs. Then, he came
back and helped us win a Cup.

"Maybe it's just because Ozzie is just a shy guy, who doesn't
really relish trying to be in the spotlight."

The glare on his game will only intensify if Osgood fails to
help the second-seeded Red Wings get past the seventh-seeded
Blue Jackets with a rookie in net.

Mason had an NHL-high 10 shutouts this season and his 2.29
goals-against average ranked second in the league, lifting
Columbus to postseason play for the first time in the
franchise's eight-season history.

"It's about time this team had some success," the 20-year-old
Mason said. "The city has waited a long time for it.

"Everybody should be proud of what we accomplished, but nobody
is going to be satisfied with just making the playoffs. We want
to make it to the Stanley Cup final."

While some might scoff at Mason's bravado, his coach embraces
it.

"I think our whole franchise is under the radar," Blue Jackets
coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Teams still think we're goalie only.
We're more than that."

Blue Jackets star Rick Nash, though, isn't sure he would still
be playing if Mason didn't emerge as a star after Pascal
Leclaire had a season-ending injury.

"He's the backbone of our team right now," Nash said. "Pascal
Leclaire was a great goalie as well, but he got injured and
Steve took full advantage of his opportunity.

"He keeps everybody calm and looks like a veteran."

The only thing that seems to rattle Osgood is being surrounded
by reporters and TV cameras, probing for answers.

"I just get sick of it," he said. "I just want to get my stuff
off, get stretched out and feel half decent and go eat. If I
don't eat now, I'm 37, I get mad.

"Some days I don't want to deal with it."

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