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.

Match-up to watch: Zdeno Chara vs. Johan Franzen

Zdeno Chara

It might be obvious to have this be our match-up to watch during this afternoon’s Thanksgiving Showdown but with the way Zdeno Chara plays defense and how Johan Franzen has been finding the net this season, today’s game could hinge on how these two deal with each other.

Chara has been an absolute force on the blue line this season. In the team’s toughest games he’s logging the most minutes and there’s never a game that goes by that doesn’t see him trying to wrangle the opposition’s top line. Sure, Chara is known for his imposing presence and big slap shot, but his ability to rein in the biggest goal scorers in the league is what makes him a perennial Norris Trophy finalist.

source: Getty Images

Seeing Chara have to get a handle on Johan Franzen, however, presents a different brand of challenge. Franzen can beat defenses in a variety of ways. He can hang around the goal and try to be a menace to both defensemen and goalies with his physical presence. Franzen can also hang around the slot and snipe shots that find even the smallest of openings through a goalie and make defenses look bad for even giving him that much time.

With Franzen going into today’s game leading the Red Wings in scoring (10 goals, 11 assists), expect to see Bruins coach Claude Julien to put Chara out there to try and limit his opportunities. Trying to deal with the Red Wings presents plenty of problems for a coach to try and defend correctly against them, but with Chara you can bank on him to dominate more often than not who he’s put against.

Ryane Clowe will be a game-time decision, Johan Franzen might also play in Game 7

Detroit Red Wings v San Jose Sharks - Game Five
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Hockey players are already known for their willingness to fight through injuries during the postseason, but that trend maxes out when it comes to a Game 7. Just look at the deciding game of the Buffalo Sabres-Philadelphia Flyers series: Chris Pronger increased his workload dramatically while Derek Roy appeared in his first contest since a December surgery.

Pain isn’t always the biggest factor when a team determines if a player should fight through an injury. Typically, the most important question is: will this injury reduce a player’s effectiveness so much that they would be better off in street clothes?

That might be the biggest question when it comes to San Jose Sharks power forward Ryan Clowe and Detroit Red Wings sniper Johan Franzen. Various sources indicate that Clowe will be a game-time decision while Red Wings coach Mike Babcock didn’t rule Franzen out of Game 7.

When healthy, both players are major contributors to their teams. That being said, I wonder if Clowe will be able to bring the same physical effort to the ice if he is indeed dealing with post-concussion syndrome. On a similar note, Franzen seemed borderline immobile during parts of this series. Each squad would risk essentially having only 19 functional skaters if they incorrectly roll with those players.

That being said, you really cannot put it past either player to contribute considering their talents and the adrenaline boost that comes from playing in a Game 7. We’ll keep you up to date about each situation, although we might not know the final verdicts until the puck drops.

Report: Mike Modano will take Johan Franzen’s spot in Red Wings lineup

Detroit Red Wings v Phoenix Coyotes - Game Four
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The San Jose Sharks will play without their big, talented forward Ryane Clowe but the Detroit Red Wings will reportedly try to survive without Johan Franzen. “The Mule” will sit out with his recurring ankle problems in favor of Mike Modano, according to TSN.

It’s no shocker that Franzen won’t play in Game 6. To put it lightly, the dangerous playoff performer just couldn’t get around properly in Game 5 and many other points in this series. He was really laboring around and could occasionally be seen limping. You have to respect Franzen’s toughness, but I’m not sure how much he could help the Red Wings with that injury curtailing much of his usefulness.

If nothing else, Modano will be much more mobile than Franzen. We feared that Modano might end his career as a healthy scratch, but he will get at least one more playoff game under his belt tonight (barring unforeseen changes). Modano had one assist in his one playoff appearance this year and 15 points in 40 regular season games before an unlucky injury forced him to miss half the season. If San Jose beats Detroit, it would be surprising if this wasn’t Modano’s last NHL game … but you never know.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, all signs point to Pavel Datsyuk playing again tonight. His ailments didn’t seem to keep him from being his world-class self in Game 5, so it’s not too surprising.

Mike Modano will take Johan Franzen’s place if he can’t play on injured ankle

Mike Modano
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When Johan Franzen missed Game 4 in the Red Wings first round series with Phoenix, many assumed it was due to his horrific looking facial injuries suffered when he went face-first into the boards in Game 2. After all, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think he may have suffered a concussion or was still dealing with other issues taking such a spill into the boards.

Turns out Franzen’s ankle is what’s been bothering him after hurting it in Game 3 against Phoenix. It was bothering him so much that it took him out of action for Game 4 of that series and after getting by on it poorly so far in this series and taking another hit to it from Joe Thornton in last night’s Game 5, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is looking at other options.

The leading choice he can make right now is in the form of 40 year-old American hockey legend Mike Modano. Modano took Franzen’s spot in Game 4 against Phoenix and while Modano has been a bit sullen throughout the playoffs about not getting to play more often, or at all, coach Mike Babcock says the job is his if Franzen cannot go.

When asked after the Wings arrived back in Detroit Monday afternoon about Franzen’s status for Game 6 Babcock said, “I don’t know. I’m not going to worry about that much. We’ll see what happens. If he’s not ready to go, we’ll put Modano in.”

Babcock says he’s not worried about Franzen but he should be. Franzen has been a huge performer in the past in the playoffs scoring goals by the bucketload. Now, Franzen with his gimpy ankle have been laboring around the ice and ineffective. Making a potential switch now would make sense to have a fully healthy array of starters. That said, if Babcock offers to go with Franzen who may be at 70% of what he can do, that speaks volumes about what he makes of Modano’s (or anyone else who could fill into the lineup) ability.

In the playoffs you need your best players to be at their best, but if they’re hurting so badly that their presence is detrimental to the team, that pride in wanting to play might need to be put aside for a while to get healthier to a point. I doubt Franzen would ever take himself out of the lineup and that’s where Babcock has to be absolutely sure he’s making the right move for both the player and team.