Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk

It looks like Datsyuk in, Franzen out for Detroit tomorrow


If you want a damning stat when it comes to the Detroit Red Wings’ resiliency, look at their 16-20-1 road record.

On the other hand, chew on this fact pointed out by Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall are the only Red Wings who’ve played every game this season.*

Perhaps that’s just a sign that Detroit’s core is getting older, but if this team can get healthy by playoff time, there’s no telling how far they might go. As far as that’s concerned, the word from’s Kevin Kurz is that Pavel Datsyuk should make his return to the Red Wings’ lineup after missing almost a month with a knee injury. That’s great news, but Detroit fans are probably used to injury-related “yeah, buts” and there’s one today, too: Johan Franzen appears primed to miss Saturday’s game against the San Jose Sharks with a bad back.

This explanation might turn a stomach or two in the Motor City:

Franzen said that he’s experienced back problems in the past, but nothing quite this bad.

“I never had this before. Not like this,” the team’s leading goal-scorer told the Wings’ website. “Can’t play like this.”

Well that doesn’t sound very promising.

For quite some time, Franzen’s carried the “What if?” label with him because of injuries.

That was especially true in a 27-game 2009-10 regular season, although he seemed to have a ceiling around 72 games for a few years until 2010-11, when he played in the second-most games of his career (76 games). Franzen has managed to play in all 71 Red Wings games so far, notching 26 goals and 53 points, but from the sound of his quotes, one cannot help but wonder if Detroit will be lucky to get him back by playoff time.

Then again, he’s called “The Mule” so maybe he’ll shoulder the burden of a quick return (or maybe not even miss a beat). The Red Wings next game will be on NBC Sports Network tomorrow night, so you can eye-ball Detroit – Franzen or not – for yourself.

* – At least if Franzen misses tomorrow’s game, as expected.

PHT Morning Skate: Beat writers survey predicts Ducks will win Cup

Corey Perry, Frederik Andersen
AP Photo
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

In a survey of 29 beat writers, the Anaheim Ducks emerged as the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup. If you’ll recall, they have that in common with the EA Sports simulation. (Boston Globe)

Alex Ovechkin would pick an Olympic hit against Jaromir Jagr as the biggest check of his life. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

Here are the highlights from Minnesota’s 5-4 victory over Colorado:

The Montreal Canadiens seem committed to using Alex Galchenyuk as a center throughout the 2015-16 campaign. (The Canadian Press)

The NHL recently enlisted its players to read off some not so mean tweets. (USA Today)

Bills coach Rex Ryan talked about the Sabres in Thursday’s press conference. (

Frederik Andersen may have the Anaheim Ducks’ starting job for now, but with John Gibson still a big part of their plans, Andersen has to keep proving himself. (Orange County Register)

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.