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Red Wings need more kick from Mule

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- If the Detroit Red Wings are going to make their Western Conference Semifinals series close, they know they need an ornery "Mule" on the ice against the favored Chicago Blackhawks.

The hard part for Detroit coach Mike Babcock is pushing the right buttons on Johan Franzen, a Swedish power forward nicknamed "Mule" who can score goals by the bunches in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Red Wings need captain Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk to shine, but Franzen has a knack for scoring in the postseason that many players don't possess.

Tapping into that knack consistently, however, can be an issue at times.

Franzen didn't record a point, finished minus-2 and got one shot on goal in the series opener Wednesday at United Center, a 4-1 Chicago victory.

The second game is Saturday (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC) in the same building, and the Red Wings hope to see a snorting, sneering Mule on the ice.

"He [can] be pretty mean, but I think he's playing the best hockey when he's a little grumpy," Zetterberg said. "I think maybe it's up to us to get him a little bit grumpy before the games."

It might not take too much effort if Franzen's mood after practice Friday at Joe Louis Arena was any indication. Asked about the Red Wings already being written off by some, based upon Game 1 and Chicago's 9-0-1 record against Detroit during past two seasons, Franzen huffed, "Let them think that. That's awesome. Who cares?"

Franzen, who once removed the mouth guard from Blackhawks star Patrick Kane's mouth in their 2009 Western Conference Final series, was then asked about the Red Wings being outscored in the third periods of this year's playoffs by a 15-5 margin.

"We're just thinking about golf or something [in third periods]," Franzen joked. "I don't know. No one knows about this stuff except [reporters]."

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