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Franzen cleared to return to ice

by Lindsey Ungar / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT Johan Franzen is returning to the ice.

Red Wings doctors have cleared Franzen to skate on the eve of the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since May 8. Today, he skated briefly after practice.

While the Mule won’t be taking part in physical drills, he is a step closer to returning to the lineup for the Red Wings, who host the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup on Saturday night.

“We’re going to see how it goes each day,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “If he doesn’t have any setbacks, the possibility that he’s going to be in the lineup before the end of the series is pretty good.”

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock reiterated that while Franzen is still doubtful for Saturday’s game, from a coach’s perspective, Franzen looks set to go sooner than later.

“He’s ready,” Babcock said. “He’s tipping pucks in the back of the net, he’s flying around 100 miles an hour. But he was like that when he left. He’s ready to go. He’s just gotta get the OK.”

Franzen, who has been suffering from concussion-like syndromes, missed the last five games of the Western Conference final against Dallas. He had headaches since the previous series against Colorado.

He has been unavailable to the media, but Franzen told Babcock that he feels good — good enough to be wisecracking about teammate Tomas Holmstrom.

“He told me his headaches went away totally in the last round when he saw Homer on a 2-on-1 and he toepicked,” Babcock joked. “He said he’s never had a headache since.”

Franzen had led the Red Wings in scoring (15 points) and the league in playoff goals (12) before missing time. In his absence, Dallas keyed on the top line of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Holmstrom and
held the Wings to two or less goals in three of the last five games.

But the return of Franzen could give that secondary scoring boost that had been lacking times against the Stars.

“We’ve got our fingers crossed,” Holland said. “We’re hopeful.”

Said Babcock: “I can’t tell you what game he’s playing in. I can just tell you he’s playing.”

WINGS NOTES: When asked if there would be any lineup changes for Game 1, Babcock answered, “you can ask me that tomorrow.” … Forward Kris Draper did not practice Thursday. He was at the hospital where his wife, Julie, gave birth to their third child, Kamryn Rose.

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