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Red Wings get Franzen back as they face Blues

by Brian Hunter
RED WINGS (27-21-10) at BLUES (25-25-9)

Last 10: Detroit 3-5-2; St. Louis 3-5-2

Season Series: Fifth of six meetings this season between Central Division rivals. The Blues have won three of four matchups to this point, including a season-opening sweep of the Red Wings in Stockholm by 4-3 and 5-3 scores. Each team has since won in its opponent's arena, as Detroit claimed a 4-3 shootout win at the Scottrade Center on Nov. 28 and Ty Conklin turned in a 42-save shutout in the most recent meeting on Dec. 9 at Joe Louis Arena, making a Brad Boyes goal 1:56 into the game stand up in a 1-0 victory.

Big Story: The Red Wings have been dealing with various injuries to many of their top players throughout the season. None may have had a bigger impact than the ACL injury suffered by forward Johan Franzen in the team's home opener on Oct. 8. The player affectionately known as “The Mule” is finally healthy and will return to the lineup Tuesday. Franzen scored 61 goals over the past two seasons.

"I'm really excited," Franzen said Monday. "I had a good practice today, and this was my first practice actually being in a line, so it was more fun. Hopefully with a good first game I can get some confidence, and hopefully feel good in the other games, too."

Team Scope:

Red Wings: Anyone expecting Detroit to just flip a switch as the season hit its second half is still waiting. The Wings have gone just 7-7-4 since the new calendar year began. Among the disappointing losses they've suffered, it's hard to find a bigger one than the game they come off Saturday in Los Angeles. After taking a three-goal, first-period lead, they watched the Kings storm back with four unanswered in a 4-3 defeat.

"We have to get points -- that's the bottom line," Mike Babcock told the Detroit Free Press. "We're in a situation now where you dig yourself too big a hole, you can't get out of it."
Blues: This is the second game in as many nights for St. Louis, which got off to a strong start Monday in Colorado before suffering a 5-2 defeat to the Avalanche. The Blues got goals from defensemen Eric Brewer and Erik Johnson in the first period to take a pair of one-goal leads, but they quickly disappeared. Now they return home for three straight prior to the Olympic break and will try to improve upon the League's worst road record (9-16-5).

"That's definitely not the desperation we need to be playing with in order to get in (the playoffs)," Mason said. "We're letting it slip away game by game and it's painful."

Who's Hot:
Henrik Zetterberg scored twice against Los Angeles and has four goals and two assists in his last five games for Detroit. Valtteri Filppula has a goal and four assists over that span. Pavel Datsyuk has four goals and five assists in his last seven games.

T.J. Oshie has assists in five straight games for St. Louis. Alex Steen has two goals and two assists during a four-game points streak.

Injury Report:
The Red Wings will be without the services of Niklas Kronwall due to a knee injury, while forward Patrick Eaves is doubtful with a sprained ankle. Forward Tomas Holmstrom will be a game-time decision with a bruised left knee, and forward Drew Miller expects to play despite a bruised ankle. Defenseman Andreas Lilja has spent the entire season on injured reserve with post-concussion symptoms but is currently on a conditioning assignment and could be cleared to return by this weekend.

Stat Pack:
Detroit averages 32.7 shots per game, third in the League. … St. Louis has eight players on its roster with at least 10 goals. Patrik Berglund and Jay McClement are poised to join that list with eight apiece.
Puck Drop:
Five teams in the Western Conference sit within seven points of the eighth and final playoff spot. Detroit heads that list, holding down ninth place and just two points behind Nashville. St. Louis has a few more teams to climb over and seven points to currently make up. This game will be televised nationally by Versus in the U.S. and TSN in Canada.

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