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Datsyuk expected to play starring role in 24/7

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EVERYONE is eager to see everyone else on TV, stripped of the usual protective trappings.

An HBO production staff was at Joe Louis Arena Thursday to shoot promos for the upcoming 24/7 show, part of the package with the annual Winter Classic. Actual filming for the four-part series will begin in early December, with episodes airing on Saturday nights, showing how the Red Wings prepare all the way up through the Jan. 1 game against Toronto at Michigan Stadium. The Leafs are in town tonight for an exhibition home-and-home series, as the Original Six teams renew a rivalry dormant through years of being in separate conferences.

Jimmy Howard will be watching, come mid-December: "I'm curious to see who acts like themselves and who puts on a little bit of a show."

Howard echoed several teammates who anticipated Pavel Datsyuk might have some good scenes, given his charming wit, saying, "I've got money on Pav." On the other hand, Howard said he can also "think of a couple of guys who will be checking themselves twice before they leave the house in the morning." He wouldn't name names.

Defenceman Brendan Smith noted the show can expose how "some of these tough guys, or goons, are chippy kind of players, and then they are soft-hearted sweethearts backhome with their family. It'll be cool for people to see what our team is like."

Smith suggested viewers will be surprised by how outspoken a guy like Kyle Quincey is, for example. Smith's dark-horse scene stealer is Jonathan Ericsson.

The trick for HBO will be getting the Wings on film, outside of a game. When the NHL shot an episode of "36" on Nicklas Lidstrom, pretty much the only teammate who didn't hide from cameras was Tomas Holmstrom. This time it may be harder to avoid an appearance, as production people will be everywhere.

"I assume you become immune to it a little bit," coach Mike Babcock said. "To be honest, I can go without it, totally. But it doesn't have anything to do with me. I just hope someone else is first star."

Viola gets into it

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Vincent Viola's first event as owner of the Florida Panthers opened in a manner worthy of a West Point graduate like himself, with a colour guard presenting a U.S. flag and an Army sergeant singing the national anthem.

Viola sang along and clapped at the end. His enthusiasm was evident, as he hopes it will be in his new role.

Viola was formally introduced as the Panthers' principal owner, chairman and governor on Friday, after spending $250 million for the team and the operating rights to the BB&T Center, where Florida plays its home games.

"We understand the privilege of the stewardship that ownership of a sports franchise really means," Viola said. "We don't really own anything. The players sweat, sacrifice their health in later years to do well on the ice, to provide the right feeling and connection to the fans. It's about the players and the fans and our service to those two respective groups that will determine our success. I really, truly believe that."

Sabres owner upbeat

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sabres owner Terry Pegula is choosing optimism over making predictions regarding his young, retooled team.

"I can't predict how the season's going to go," Pegula told The Associated Press on Thursday. "But I know that the guys in the locker -room are pretty upbeat."

That might not be exactly what Sabres fans want to hear from an owner who ushered in Stanley Cup-calibre expectations when Pegula purchased the team in February 2011. And yet, many have had to scale back their enthusiasm over a franchise that's suddenly rebuilding through youth after missing the playoffs for a second straight year.

"You can't set a timetable for contending for a Stanley Cup. One team wins it every year," Pegula said. "We're not going to give up, let's put it that way."

On Thursday, the Sabres improved their pre-season record to 4-1-1 following a 3-0 win over Columbus.

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 28, 2013 C7

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