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Franzen out for Game 1

by Staff

Johan Franzen, who leads the league with 12 playoffs goals despite missing five games with concussion-like symptoms, will not be back on the ice for the Red Wings in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Pittsburgh. Watch Johan Franzen highlights
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Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen practiced with the club Friday morning, but will not be in the lineup when the Stanley Cup Finals begin on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio).

Still listed as day-to-day, there is a decent chance that “The Mule” will be on the ice for the first time since the opener of the Western Conference Final when Detroit hosts Pittsburgh in Game 2 Monday night.

“I’ve only skated two days here,” said Franzen, who skated on his own Thursday. “Being off two weeks, my shape isn’t where it’s supposed to be. I need some more conditioning to get my strength back. You’ve got to get some timing back and get your feet going again. Otherwise, I can’t help the team out.”

Franzen admitted he played for two weeks with headaches, which didn’t stop him from scoring 12 goals in 11 games. But once the concussion-like symptoms were too much to overcome, he was forced to sit.

“I was waiting for it to go away, but it didn’t,” Franzen said. “First, I thought it was the altitude in Colorado, but it didn’t go away. And then I thought it was (Kirk) Maltby giving me the headaches. I had to go to the doctor after two weeks. Something wasn’t right, and I could feel that.”

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is thrilled with Franzen’s progress and believes his power forward will be back sooner rather than later. Franzen will meet again with doctors on Saturday morning, when his return to the lineup will hopefully be determined.

“He’s flying around, going 100 miles an hour and looks like a million bucks,” Babcock said. “Looks to me like he’s ready to play, but I don’t make those decisions. No side effects.”

His teammates certainly can’t wait to have him back. Franzen notched two hat tricks in Detroit’s second-round sweep of the Colorado Avalanche and played a huge role in the team’s nine-game winning streak.

“It kind of came out of nowhere,” veteran forward Kris Draper said of Franzen’s injury. “Usually, at this time of year, injuries are hidden. I think this kind of blindsided everybody. We didn’t know that this was coming at all. He had one of the best series in NHL history in the four games against Colorado. He played Game 1 against Dallas, and then we find out we might not have him for the rest of the playoffs. It was a tough loss, but we just wanted to keep playing to give him a chance to get back in the lineup. He’s a great guy. Guys really like him. You love having a teammate like that.”

-- Brian Compton

Roberts will sit out Game 1 – Veteran forward Gary Roberts came to Pittsburgh to help the Penguins win a Stanley Cup. He won’t get the chance in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Roberts got the word from coach Michel Therrien Friday that he will not get a sweater for the opener. Roberts was unhappy with the decision.

"I've been told I'm not playing tomorrow night," said Roberts. "But it's not the time for me to bitch and complain. I've enjoyed being around this group of guys. I've had a trying year, health wise, not the year I wanted to have.

"But I'm excited to be here and be part of this thing. Hopefully at some point I'll get that chance."

Roberts missed the last three games of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Flyers with a case of pneumonia and said he is now healthy.

"The rest has been great for me and I feel like I'm ready to go," said Roberts. "But you know what, it's not about me right now. It's about the team. One thing I will say, if I do get the chance, I won't let my teammates down."

-- Phil Coffey

Doesn’t matter to us
– The Penguins are really sick of this whole experience vs. youth theme at the Stanley Cup Final.

Yes, they know the Red Wings are older and have more Stanley Cup Final experience. And, yes, they’re fully aware that they are a young bunch with their top three centers only 20, 21 and 19 years old, respectively.

But when it comes down to it, the Penguins feel their youth matters about as much as the Red Wings’ experience at this time.

“I know lots of people are talking about experience on the Detroit side and we are younger, but I think we’re more fresher and a better skating team,” Marian Hossa said. “That’s on our side. There are advantages for both teams and they’ll show on the ice.”

Added Sidney Crosby: “We can’t control the fact that we have a lot of young guys. That’s just the way it is. And we’ve shown time and time again in the playoffs that we’ve responded well to adversity. That’s what experience shows you, how to react in adversity and new situations. We’ve done a great job of doing that the whole year.”

-- Dan Rosen

Remember the boards – The Penguins and Red Wings never met in the Stanley Cup Final, so neither really knows how fast the other is. But Pittsburgh forward Ryan Malone said their one exhibition game at Joe Louis Arena this past September has come in handy in the Penguins’ preparation for Game 1.

“Their boards are a little more jumpy than other places so we made that a point,” Malone said. “Even watching their tape, sometimes their defensemen throw the puck off the back wall if they can’t put it on net. That’s a play we’ll try obviously.”

-- Dan Rosen

Hey, I know you – Other than Ryan Malone’s family, it’ll be hard to find someone who has taken more pleasure out of seeing the Penguins’ alternate captain flourish in the NHL than Red Wings forward Mark Hartigan.

Hartigan and Malone played together and lived together at St. Cloud State University for two seasons (1999-2001). Malone was in Hartigan’s wedding party. The two remain extremely close friends and workout together in the offseason.

“We were all slobs,” Hartigan said during a light moment during Friday’s media availability at Cobo Hall. “It’s college, so there was nothing clean about us.”

Hartigan, though, said he liked Malone as a player and loved him as a linemate. To see him excel now – Malone had a career year with 27 goals and 24 assists, and so far has nine goals and six assists in the playoffs – is gratifying.

“They let him play and he’s earned his ice time as a top six forward,” Hartigan said. “He does it all and that’s the kind of player he is. If he’s the same as he was in college he’s probably great in the locker room. He’s a very emotional guy.”

The two have not spoken since the Red Wings beat Dallas on Tuesday to clinch their berth in the Stanley Cup Final.

“We have texted a couple of times in the last couple of days,” Hartigan said. “That’s about as far as it’s gone.”

-- Dan Rosen

Déjà vu – In October of 2001, Chris Osgood was the odd-man out following the Detroit Red Wings’ acquisition of Dominik Hasek.

Osgood was placed on waivers and was quickly claimed by the New York Islanders, for whom he won 49 games in close to two seasons.

Just under seven years later, Osgood is back in Motown, trying to secure the city’s fourth Stanley Cup championship in 11 seasons.

“I don’t know if he’d ever be back in our net as a No. 1 goalie helping us win a championship,” Red Wings GM Ken Holland said. “I’ve known him since he’s 18. One of the reasons he’s successful in Detroit is the pressure is water off a duck’s back. He doesn’t get too high or too low. After the work stoppage, I thought he’d be a great guy to bring in as an insurance policy. He was prepared at that stage of his career to be a backup.”

Osgood was the backup at the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but came in to relieve a struggling Hasek during Game 4 of the opening round against the Nashville Predators. Detroit would go on to win nine straight games before falling in Game 4 against the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Finals. Osgood enters the final round with a record of 10-2 and a 1.60 GAA.

“He’s overhauled his game,” Holland said. “He’s better technically. You get into Game 4 in the Nashville series, and long shots are getting by Dom. Halfway through Game 4, Mike Babcock makes a change. Ozzie doesn’t give up a goal the rest of that game. It was a no-brainer sticking with him Game 5 and the rest is history. He’s a big part of why we’re here.”

-- Brian Compton

Penguins forward Ryan Malone has taken notes on the liveliness of boards in Joe Louis Arena, though he didn't get his information from his former college teammate Mark Hartigan, a Red Wings forward.

Worldwide appeal – If you haven't thought enough about the world interest in the Stanley Cup Final, listen to Detroit's Jiri Hudler.

"I'm getting messages from friends and family back in the Czech Republic, even people I don't know,” Hudler said. "My dad (Jiri Sr.) said the same thing. People having been stopping him on the streets of Vsetin, congratulating him on the Red Wings success."

-- Larry Wigge

Franzen shoots, scoresJohan Franzen was back on the ice practicing with the team for the first time. And, even if he will not play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Saturday, he's closer to returning to the Red Wings’ lineup than ever. In other words, don't count him out of Games 2 or 3.

"I scored on my first shot," he said proudly of his first practice with the team since being sidelined after Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against Dallas on May 8 after scoring a League-leading 12 goals in just 11 playoff games. "Five hole against Dominik Hasek. He was probably trying to make me feel good."

Yeah, like “The Dominator” has ever not tried to stop every shot in practice and games in his brilliant 16-year NHL career.

When asked if he felt closer than ever to playing, Franzen added, "I think so. Maybe Game 2 or 3. All I know is it has really been hard watching my team play without me, especially since I was having the time of my life.”

-- Larry Wigge

Happy Birthday, Kris – Red Wings forward Kris Draper has had a pretty good run in Motown.

Not only will he make his fourth appearance in the Stanley Cup Final tomorrow night, but he’ll also be celebrating his 37th birthday.

Draper said when he was a kid, the best gift he ever received on May 24 was a Big Wheels. This will be just a tad better.

“This will be the best birthday present – playing Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final,” Draper said. “I don’t think I’ve ever played on my birthday. This is going to be exciting.”

Remarkably, Saturday night will also be Draper’s 187th appearance in a Stanley Cup playoff game. The Red Wings have been an annual NHL powerhouse during Draper’s tenure in Detroit, and the Presidents’ Trophy winners are showing no signs of slowing down.

How do they do it?

“Unbelievable hockey players,” Draper replied. “I had an opportunity to play with Stevie Y, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille … these are guys that are all going into the Hall of Fame. That’s something I’ve never taken for granted. Now here we are, six years from the last time we were at the Stanley Cup (Final), I’m playing with guys like Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen … it just shows you the commitment that this organization has. The players don’t want to leave. It’s a great place to play hockey.”

--Brian Compton


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