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Babcock shuffles pairings after Franzen injury

by Dan Rosen
Mike Babcock is going to spend Friday night and probably some of Saturday morning trying to figure out the best way to configure his lineup now that forward Johan Franzen is on the shelf for the next four months.

The Red Wings host Washington on Saturday night.

"Over the evening I'll get her figured out," Babcock told early Friday evening. "I have (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Valtteri) Filppula and (Henrik) Zetterberg. Two of the three are my first- and second-line centers so Filppula can no longer play in the three-hole. I have to bring (Justin) Abdelkader back up and play him until (Darren) Helm is back."

Franzen was playing left wing on a line with Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom.

Helm likely won't be back from his shoulder injury until next week at the earliest, so Babcock has to figure out a plan without him and then go forward with one once the young center returns.

He has no problem moving Filppula, who has been the third-line center between Jason Williams and Ville Leino, up to play wing. Babcock has done that before, but he has to figure out who is best served with Datsyuk -- Filppula or Zetterberg, who has been centering his own line between Todd Bertuzzi and Dan Cleary.

"He's played the wing tons and so has Zetterberg," Babcock said. "Fil has played with Datsyuk and a lot and Z (Zetterberg) has played with Datsyuk a lot. The difference is Z shoots and Fil wants to pass. Passing the puck doesn't do you any good if you don't eventually shoot it. That's how you get points."

Babcock admitted he was surprised to learn of Franzen's injury Friday considering the player known as The Mule played the entire game Thursday against Chicago -- and even scored the game-winning goal.

"We knew he had been bumped but we never thought anything was wrong," Babcock said. "He played the whole game. Now, how do you play the whole game on a torn anterior cruciate ligament? He's a tough guy and he fought his way through."

The word is that Franzen is going to be out for four months, which puts his return right around the Olympics. He remains a candidate to play for Sweden in Vancouver, but Babcock isn't worried about -- that nor is he worried about any timetables right now.

"I'm not looking at any math. That math does you no good," he said. "These guys are elite athletes and once he has the surgery, and we have a great surgeon, he'll be back better than ever. Now, how quickly will he get back? We don't know that now."

What he does know is guys like Helm, Abdelkader, Leino and others will have to step it up and produce in Franzen's absence.

It's not an ideal situation, but Babcock is not panicking.

"I don't mind injuries later in the year because by then you have brought your young kids in," Babcock said. "This forces someone in before they are ready. That's life. Let's suck it up and go play."

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