DETROIT - The Detroit Red Wings will face a familiar opponent when they attempt to defend their Stanley Cup title.

The Red Wings advanced to the National Hockey League final with a 2-1 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday. Waiting in the wings are the Pittsburgh Penguins, itching for a rematch after being bested by the Red Wings in six games in last year's final.

It's the first time the same two teams have squared off for the Stanley Cup in consecutive seasons since the veteran New York Islanders and the Edmonton Oilers, led by young superstar Wayne Gretzky, battled for NHL supremacy in 1983 and '84, and there are similarities between those classic finals and this year's rematch.

Playing the part of the dynastic Islanders is a veteran Red Wings squad which boasts four Stanley Cup titles over the past 11 seasons. The Red Wings are also the last team to repeat as champions, winning back-to-back titles in 1997 and '98.

Meanwhile, Gretzky's Oilers make way for Sidney Crosby's Penguins: A young, dynamic and star-studded team that has less experience than its grizzled opponent.

The Penguins hope history is on their side. The Islanders won the 1983 final, giving them their fourth straight Stanley Cup title. But the Oilers came back in 1984 and won their first of five championships over a span of seven seasons.

This current Pittsburgh team, which features two of the best players in the league in Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has also drawn comparisons to the Penguins squad that won consecutive Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992.

That team featured two of the games' brightest stars of that time in Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.

To Crosby, no such comparisons - to Gretzky or Lemieux - are valid until he wins a Stanley Cup.

"They've won cups and, you know, and we've yet to do that," Crosby said. "So we still have some things to prove.

"It's a compliment, and we'll try to keep playing the same way."

The final starts Saturday night in Detroit.


With files from The Associated Press

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