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Franzen excited to be replacement for Sweden

by Dan Rosen
VANCOUVER -- Even after his major knee operation in October, Johan Franzen had a gut feeling that he was going to be in Vancouver for the Olympics.

"I didn't book a vacation trip," he said Monday after Team Sweden's practice.

Maybe not, but he also didn't find out officially until 11 o'clock Sunday morning that he would be part of Team Sweden.

Franzen, who is four months removed from surgery for a torn ACL, is here because his teammate in Detroit, Tomas Holmstrom, can not be as his Olympics were derailed by nagging foot and knee injuries.

"I waited until the last day and I finally got the call," Franzen said. "I wanted to believe it (that I would be in the Olympics)."

On Tuesday it'll be four months and a week since Franzen tore his ACL against the Blackhawks on Oct. 8, Detroit's third game of the season. At the time, it was believed that he could be out for up to six months, so he wasn't added to Sweden's provisional roster.

Franzen, though, returned for the Red Wings on Feb. 9 after 55 games. He played in three games before the break, and scored in the last two. His return certainly came as a surprise to the folks inside the Swedish ice hockey federation.

"That's not normal by any means, four months after an operation like that to be back on the ice," Sweden coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson told "It's impressive, but we're not complaining."

Franzen could be considered an upgrade from Holmstrom because he's seven years younger, three inches taller, 25 pounds heavier and obviously much fresher since he missed four months of the season.

"I had a really long training camp you can say," Franzen said. "So, I am in pretty good shape right now."

Gustafsson, though, refused to say Sweden is better or worse with Franzen. He instead expressed disappointment that Holmstrom can't be here because his net-front presence on the power play is something Sweden will sorely miss.

"That's a big part of the game, the power play, and that's a big loss for us," Gustafsson said. "But, Franzen has other qualities that are also very good and we have to find ways to use them. I can't say we made an upgrade or a downgrade. They are two good hockey players."

Henrik Zetterberg stressed how different they really are, making it hard to say which one better suits Team Sweden.

Team Sweden Gear "Mule is skating more and more of a power forward," Zetterberg told "Holmer is more of a power play specialist and real good in front of the net."

Although the odds were stacked against him, Franzen said he targeted the Olympics for his return. He wanted desperately to be here, and figure he could be as long as he followed his rehab routines and was diligent.

"You improve almost every week and you see the progress so that makes it a lot more exciting," Franzen said. "You want to get better and when you feel you can do a little bit more it gives you new energy and you want to keep doing it, so that helps."

Zetterberg said there was very little surprise among the players in Detroit that Franzen made it back in just four months. He mentioned how Detroit and Team Sweden defenseman Niklas Kronwall had the same surgery four years ago and was back in a similar time frame and was able to play in the Olympics.

"And, Mule (Franzen) went to see the same doctor," Zetterberg said. "For us, it's not a big surprise that he's back just because Kronner kind of went through the same things."

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