DETROIT – Just when it seemed like it couldn’t get any worse for the Red Wings, another regular in the lineup made an early exit in Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Johan Franzen skated off late in the second period after taking a hit to the head by Tampa Bay defense Radko Gudas. So frustrated was Franzen, he earned an unsportsmanlike penalty for shouting expletives at the referees who missed the hit. He did not return to the game.
“I don’t know. It’s all those guys who get bumped in the head,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You know what it’s like in the league now. They’re gone forever. I don’t know what that means. I don’t know protocol what will happen or whatever. We’ll figure that out.”
Franzen will definitely miss the Wings next game, which is Tuesday when the Anaheim Ducks visit Joe Louis Arena. If it is determined that he has a concussion, he’ll join Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall and Justin Abdelkader who have already missed games with head injuries.
“You can't really think about it too much. Is it what it is,” said Kronwall, of the rash of injuries befallen the Wings lately. “It's another opportunity for someone to grab more ice time and do well and really take advantage of it. We can't feel sorry for ourselves. Every team goes through this. Just gotta stay positive and stick together as a team. In the long run, I think you're just going to benefit from it.”
Still, it’s hard enough to muster offense with so many regulars out of the lineup. The Wings have lost 110 man games to injuries and have scored just five goals in the last five games (0-3-2). And now they'll have to look toward Grand Rapids to call-up a center.
Captain Henrik Zetterberg (back) and centers Darren Helm (shoulder) and Stephen Weiss (groin) are expected to be out at least through the Christmas break, and no timetable has been established for Abdelkader, who took an illegal hit to the head in Saturday’s loss to Pittsburgh.
“I don’t think there’s anything to it," forward Daniel Cleary said. "There’s been a lot of suspensions handed down lately throughout the league. I’ve always believed the onus falls on the player. It’s a fast game, you have to keep your head up and your arms down, a lot of times these are unnecessary hits, pretty much every one of them. The Abby hit, I thought was a dirty hit, for sure. Tonight, the one on Mule, I’m not sure, I have to see a better replay, but I don’t think it’s intentional.”
The loss of Franzen further cripples the Red Wings’ offense that has been shutout on the scoreboard three times this season. They were held scoreless four times in a 48-game lockout-shortened 2013 season. The Wings are now an unfathomable 5-8-6 in their own building.
With the loss, the Red Wings are now on a 1-4-2 roll since Dec. 4 with just two home wins in the last eight weeks.
Zetterberg, Franzen and Helm have accounted for 30.3 percent of the Red Wings’ goals this season, so a big void needs to be filled in their absence.
“I thought he had some good looks tonight but we didn’t score,” Babcock said. “For whatever reason, we’re not scoring. Pav rung one off the post, we had the one goal there (disallowed). We had some good looks, but we didn’t score, so we’ve got to stick with it that way. Obviously, we’re more challenged offensively with our lineup, but there’s no sense whining or feeling sorry for yourself. We’ve got to find a way to win a game.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose