DETROIT – It didn’t take long for Johan Franzen to heat up after missing two months with post-concussion symptoms and even less time for the league to recognize the Mule’s immediate impact.
Franzen’s five-point performance in back-to-back wins at Montreal and Ottawa earned the veteran forward top honors in the NHL’s Three Stars of the Week, which was announced Monday afternoon.
“He’s one of those guys who when he gets going seems to be unstoppable,” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. “It’s a big positive, I think, for us to see that and hopefully he can keep it rolling.”
Coming out of the Olympic break last week, Franzen produced three goals and two assists to help the Red Wings improve to 28-20-12 and maintain a slight grip on to the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
He assisted on both goals in a 2-1 victory over the Canadiens, including the primary assist on Gustav Nyquist’s winner with 27.3 seconds left in overtime at Molson Centre last Wednesday. The next night, Franzen collected his sixth career hat trick, and first since Nov. 8, 2011, in a lopsided 6-1 win against the Senators. Despite missing 27 games with a myriad of injuries, Franzen is fifth in team scoring with 12 goals and 28 points in 33 games played.
Widely considered a streaky scorer who often gets his goals in bunches, Franzen will be counted on more than ever now that Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery) and Pavel Datsyuk (knee) are mending. Zetterberg wouldn’t likely return before the playoffs, and Datsyuk – who didn’t travel with the team to New Jersey for Tuesday’s game against the Devils – is day to day.
“We’re going to need him clicking every single night,” Howard said of Franzen. “Having Pav and Z out there’s a lot more pressure on the guys up front but they have to find a way to put it in the back of the net and Mule has done a great job of that for us in the last few games.”
Now that Franzen appears to be fully recovered from his concussion, the Wings hope his five-point week is the beginning of a lengthy hot streak.
“Other guys we consider to be offensive threats aren’t with us,” coach Mike Babcock said. “There’s guys missing, there’s no question about it, but to me it’s about the guys who are playing and the guys are playing well.”
New Jersey center Adam Henrique and Minnesota goalie Darcy Kuemper were named second and third stars, respectively.
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