DETROIT -- Johan Franzen said he's confident he will play Thursday at Joe Louis Arena when the Detroit Red Wings take on the Nashville Predators in a game with potentially big Stanley Cup Playoff implications.
Franzen, who scored his 14th goal of the season in a 3-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, didn't go back onto the ice for the last few minutes of the game. His status was undetermined afterward and no description of an injury was given -- only that Franzen wasn't available to go back on the ice despite staying on the bench.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock still didn't know whether Franzen would be available after Detroit's optional morning skate Thursday, but the Swedish power forward said he'd likely be in uniform. He also said his absence from the ice in the waning minutes of Wednesday's game isn't cause for alarm.
"Just got a little rest, no need to play those last minutes (with a two-goal lead)," said Franzen, who has six goals and 11 points in the past six games. "I thought I'd get off and take the rest, so that's it.''
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said Franzen will go through warm-ups prior to the game and be reassessed prior to playing. If Franzen cannot go, Babcock said veteran Todd Bertuzzi, who's played seven games because of a back injury, is now cleared to play and would suit up. If Franzen does play, Bertuzzi will be a healthy scratch.
If the Red Wings (52 points) beat the Predators and the Dallas Stars (48 points) defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets (51 points) at American Airlines Arena on Thursday night, Detroit will lock up the eighth spot in the Western Conference. That would extend the Red Wings' string of consecutive playoff appearances to 22 straight seasons.
The Red Wings could clinch that spot by winning both of their final two games against Nashville and Saturday in Dallas.
"It's been a different season for us," Franzen said. "It's a good experience for the whole team. [We're] just going to come out stronger for it. [We're] really starting to play well here at the end, when we have to, and hopefully we can continue doing that the last two games.''
Nashville will get top center Mike Fisher back into the lineup after a hand injury after he missed the previous seven games. The Predators sent rookie forwards Filip Forsberg and Austin Watson to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League on Thursday and called up forward Joonas Rask, the younger brother of Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
"Last night, [we] were playing the Stanley Cup champions and [now] you're playing a team that's out of the playoffs," Babcock said. "No disrespect to them, but that sometimes affects your mindset, and we can't let that happen. Nashville has played us hard each and every night I've been here and has beaten us a bunch, so we have to be prepared and start on time."
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