Pavel Datsyuk,  Niklas Kronwall, Nicklas Lidstrom, Johan Franzen

Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen might help Red Wings fight off elimination after all


There were quite a few people who expected the second round of the 2011 playoffs to be over by the end of this weekend. The Philadelphia Flyers continued their implosion on Friday, but the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators stayed alive. Detroit faces the prospect of elimination once again in Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks tonight. Let’s take a look at the contest.

Detroit @ San Jose (Versus) – 8 p.m. ET; Sharks lead series 3-1

There were rumors that Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen might miss Game 5, but the Red Wings have denied those murmurs. Their lack of a morning skate added fuel to the confusion yet it seems like both players will skate for Detroit. We’ll let you know if that verdict changes once again, though.

Even if those two players manage to play tonight, it’s tough to shake the feeling that the Red Wings are a little worn down. They have the experience, skill and guile to come back from this deficit, but do they have the energy to complete this turnaround against a big, talented Sharks team?

Despite all the firepower, depth players have made a big difference in this series so far. Then again, it’s pretty tough to fathom Joe Pavelski qualifying as a “depth” player, but it shows just how deep the Sharks’ forward group really is right now.

The Red Wings earned four wins in their last five Game 5 contests, while the Sharks are 9-4 in Game 5 contests at home in their franchise history, according to the Associated Press.

Will history repeat itself with another five-game series win for San Jose or will another Western semifinals series go to at least six games? We’ll find out tonight.

Report: Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen might miss Game 5; Could Mike Modano get his chance?

Pavel Datsyuk

The Detroit Red Wings play Round 2 of what they hope will be four elimination games against the San Jose Sharks tonight, but they might need to do it without two key weapons. The team didn’t hold a morning skate today, so there are some doubts about whether Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen will play in Game 5.

Datsyuk is dealing with a wrist injury while Franzen has been hampered by ankle problems.

Actually, hampered is probably an understatement. Helene St. James probably put it the best when describing Franzen as “nearly immobilized” because of that sprained ankle. As much of a force as Franzen can be in the playoffs, I wouldn’t be surprised if he sat out tonight’s game. (Except that he’s a hockey player, so that throws almost all of the rules out the window, anyway.)

I would be a little more surprised if Datsyuk misses Game 5, although the St. James reports that he did miss Saturday’s practice. Many people make the case that Datsyuk is the best hockey player in the world, mixing outrageous stickhandling skills with crafty takeaway abilities to form a frightening on-ice skill set. He leads the Red Wings with 10 playoff points, so no doubt about it, he would be missed.

The most interesting nugget is that head coach Mike Babcock reportedly told Drew Miller and Mike Modano to be ready to play tonight if one or both of Datsyuk and Franzen cannot make it. Before Game 4, we speculated that Modano might end his career as a healthy scratch. Perhaps that would be the silver lining: at least one more chance for the future Hall of Famer to finish his career on a high note.

Of course, there’s no telling if either Datsyuk or Franzen will miss tonight’s game. We’ll let you know if any official word surfaces regarding their status, but it’s likely that both will be tough game-time decisions.

Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen are expected to play for Detroit tonight


The Detroit Red Wings’ offense was frighteningly dangerous in their first round sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes, even while missing key pieces. That puzzle should be nearly complete to start their second round series against the San Jose Sharks tonight, as both Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen are expected to return to the fold.

Mike Modano and Kris Draper will reportedly be healthy scratches to make room for those two outstanding forwards.

Zetterberg missed the entire four-game sweep while Franzen missed Game 4 because of an ankle injury (although his facial wounds probably didn’t help much either).

The Red Wings will probably need more offensive punch in this second round series than they did against the Coyotes. (San Jose scored 248 goals in 2010-11 compared to 231 by Phoenix.) Detroit is expected to line Zetterberg up with Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom, reuniting one of the best trios in the NHL. Franzen remains an outstanding playoff performer himself, with three points in three games in the first round and 44 in his last 38 postseason games.

Last year’s series against the Sharks was exciting but ultimately short and disappointing for the Red Wings. If they want this rematch to turn out better, they’ll need great performances from star players such as Franzen and Zetterberg.

Report: Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen should be ready to play in Round 2

Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Matt Walker
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Considering the fact that the 2011 playoffs re-seed after each round, the Detroit Red Wings can simply root for the other three series to keep going. Their veteran roster could benefit greatly from the break they’ll get from sweeping the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round.

The Detroit News reports that both Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen expect to be healthy enough to play in the next round of the playoffs. Zetterberg missed the last two games of the regular season with a knee injury and didn’t play in Detroit’s first round series against Phoenix while Franzen missed Game 4 with an ankle issue. Zetterberg practiced on Friday while Franzen did not, but the team confirmed that both forwards are expected to be back for the next series.

There’s even some talk that Chris Osgood might be healthy enough to back up starting goalie Jimmy Howard, although that seems like more of a toss-up.

Here’s what Zetterberg and head coach Mike Babcock had to say about the health of those two forwards.

Zetterberg said he’ll be ready to dress after Friday’s practice, and coach Mike Babcock confirmed it, as the Wings completed a brisk workout before taking the rest of the weekend off.

“I’m feeling better than yesterday, and that’s all I can ask for,” said Zetterberg, who missed the entire first-round sweep of Phoenix because of a left knee sprain. “As long as it goes that way, it’ll be good.”

Franzen (sore ankle), who didn’t play in Wednesday’s deciding game against Phoenix, didn’t practice but Babcock said Franzen will be ready to go for the next round.

“We’ll give him as much time as (needed) to make sure he’s feeling good,” Babcock said. “I’m not one bit concerned.”

The Red Wings were dangerous enough a few strides from 100 percent, but their offense could be in high gear with their veterans well rested and Zetterberg/Franzen back in the mix. It sounds solid right now, but we’ll keep you up to date about their progress.

Johan Franzen a late scratch for Game 4, Mike Modano takes his spot


Late news out of Arizona as the Red Wings will have to make due in Game 4 without Johan Franzen. Franzen is a late scratch against the Coyotes as the Red Wings look to sweep the Coyotes out of the playoffs.

Taking Franzen’s spot in the starting lineup tonight is the veteran Mike Modano. Modano has been a healthy scratch for the previous three games in the series and he’s got a special opportunity to knock out his former head coach’s current team from the playoffs. Modano played for Dave Tippett while Tippett coached the Dallas Stars.

For Modano, he joined the Red Wings in the offseason to help the team try and win a Stanley Cup. He’ll get his shot to do his part to help the Red Wings advance to the second round.