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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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