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Detroit Gamebreaker: Johan Franzen

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

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Detroit Gamebreaker: Johan Franzen
If you can make Pavel Datsyuk more dangerous, as Johan Franzen did for the Red Wings this season, you can break open a game.
There are a fair number of NHL players who make their teammates better. There aren't quite as many who make star players better.

Meet Detroit's Johan Franzen.

"Mule" as he is affectionately known around Joe Louis Arena, is one of those old-school, let's-go-to-the-front-of-the-net types who excels at converting loose pucks and rebounds into goals. He has been especially ornery, as his nickname implies, in the last two playoffs, first scoring 13 goals in 16 games as the Wings won the 2008 Stanley Cup, and 12 in 23 games as Detroit went seven games in the 2009 Final.

This season, a knee injury took Franzen out of the lineup for 55 games. But upon his return to the lineup just prior to the Olympics, the Red Wings got it together, thanks in large part to the chemistry between Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk.

"He can make plays all day long, but if no one ever shoots it in the net, what good is it? 'Mule' is a huge talent, he's a big man and he's excited; he hasn't played all year and he's fresh. That helps Pavel and it helps our whole team."
-- Detroit coach Mike Babcock

In the first 11 games Franzen had been back in the lineup, Datsyuk was, well, Pavel Datsyuk, scoring 7 goals and 5 assists while shaking off the doldrums of a disappointing season.

"He can make plays all day long, but if no one ever shoots it in the net, what good is it?" Babcock said of Datsyuk. "'Mule' is a huge talent, he's a big man and he's excited; he hasn't played all year and he's fresh. That helps Pavel and it helps our whole team."

"I know they were good together before, but not that good," goaltender Chris Osgood told Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. "They are really clicking. Pav is a guy that makes everybody around him real good, and I think Mule does the same for him. Mule is a big guy who works the flank and when he goes to the net,
Pav is able to get him the puck.

"It's a give-and-take thing for both. They really complement each other well, and Pav's not the easiest guy to play with. He does a lot of different things that other players can't do and Mule is able to read off him real well."


Quote of the Day

I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh