DETROIT -- Many Detroit Red Wings fans are getting their wish for Tuesday night's Game 6 of a Western Conference Semifinal series at Joe Louis Arena.
Injured forward Johan Franzen (ankle) will not dress against the Sharks and will be replaced by veteran forward Mike Modano, a hometown favorite who grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland, Mich. It will be the first game in this series for Modano, who only played one game -- also for the injured Franzen -- in Detroit's first-round sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes.
"It was tough last night sleeping, knowing that I was playing and there was no mystery about it," said Modano, 40, whom some would argue is the greatest American-born player in NHL history. "It wasn't coming here and waiting and seeing after warm-up or whatever. In some sense that's good. In some sense that's bad. I mean, you get kind of restless sleep, but then again you have time to really think about what you want to do as a player and what's expected of you. It's a Game 6, elimination game and the fans are going to be very revved up."
Detroit didn't skate forward lines at practice on Tuesday morning, but coach Mike Babcock said he plans on warming Modano up on Tuesday night in Franzen's top-line spot with center Pavel Datsyuk and right wing Tomas Holmstrom.
That could help Datsyuk with faceoffs, as the Russian star is rumored to have a wrist injury that resulted in him not taking any draws in Game 5. The Red Wings haven't officially admitted Datsyuk is even injured, but Babcock did let reporters draw their own conclusions after saying "he's our best faceoff guy," when asked about his lack of faceoffs after Game 5.
Modano, who's played center for most of his 21-year NHL career, said he'll be prepared to perform in the circles for draws if called upon.
"We'll try to share the load there," Modano said. "We'll just see how (Datsyuk) feels, the first couple he takes and try to slide in. It's been awhile since I've taken them, but the way our wingers compete and help out, that's a big advantage for us."
It could also be an advantage to have Modano in there for Franzen, who re-injured his ankle in Game 5 and wasn't able to skate well enough to play in the third period -- when Detroit scored three times to win after falling down 3-1 early in the period.
Having a healthy Modano able to skate could be a big boost for the Wings, who still trail the series 3-2 despite gaining momentum with two straight wins.
"I'm excited just to be a part of it," he said. "It's all you look forward to all season long, to be involved in some sense and be on the ice with these guys and competing -- knowing they're going through some physical and mental abuse out there and to kind of help lighten that load maybe and not be such a target."
That's a really tough thing to play through; when you finally are thrown out there, the game is fast, intense, every single play matters, you've got to find a way to play through that and make smart plays. So it's a huge testament to [Vermette] and some other individuals in our locker room that are putting their own ego, their own wants and needs aside, and are ready for those opportunities when they do come.
— Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews on teammate Antoine Vermette, who returned from being a healthy scratch in Game 3 to score the double-overtime winner in Game 4