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Franzen is no stranger to pulling net-front duty

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings will look to have forward Johan Franzen handle the net-front responsibilities on the power play this season. (Photo by Dave Reginek)

DETROIT – With two huge pieces to fill on the power play unit, Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall will be asked to pick up some of the slack when the Red Wings have a man-advantage.

Obviously, neither is going to make anyone forget the valuable contributes made by Nicklas Lidstrom and net-front guru Tomas Holmstrom over two decades, but the Red Wings, who finished in the bottom third of the league in power-play efficiency, believe they have experiences players who can adequately man those positions.

Holmstrom made a living out of parking himself in front of the crease and tipping 100 mile-per-hour slap shots from the blue line behind opposing goalies. Franzen, who learned from the league’s best, is no slouch either.

“I’ve been doing it on and off for the past four or five years, so I’ve been working on it all that time, too,” he said. “I’ve been watching Homer and worked on different things with him after practices, so it’s not a big difference for me. I’m used to doing that part.”

Now, the power play’s deficiencies haven’t necessarily hurt the Red Wings in the past, after all, Detroit has finished among the top four league teams in 5-on-5 scoring over the last two seasons.

Still, with a compressed schedule, scoring, no matter how teams get it, will be important.

“It would be a good thing to have a good power play,” Franzen said. “It always helps to be good at special teams.”

Lidstrom and Holmstrom will definitely be missed, coach Mike Babcock said, but there’s no sense in dwelling over something that can’t be controlled.

“Mule, net-front, is as good as anybody,” he said. “Mule has been waiting to be out on the first unit since he got here. He thinks he should be. We think he should be too. So it’s a natural fit.

“Kronner is a hell of a player, but I’m not trying to tell you that he’s Nick Lidstrom. So I don’t know what we do about that.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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