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Franzen plays vital role in Datsyuk's rebirth

by Phil Coffey / Detroit Red Wings
The numbers speak for themselves. In the first 11 games Johan Franzen has been back in the Red Wings' lineup since having knee surgery, Pavel Datsyuk has been, well, Pavel Datsyuk.

All season there has been debate about what was ailing Datsyuk, whose scoring numbers were merely mortal. Well, it seems Datsyuk was missing his favorite "Mule."

Since Franzen and his stubborn crease crashing has returned, Datsyuk is rejuvenated, scoring 7 goals and 5 assists in the span.

"I know they were good together before, but not that good," goaltender Chris Osgood told Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. "They are really clicking. Pav is a guy that makes everybody around him real good, and I think Mule does the same for him. Mule is a big guy who works the flank and when he goes to the net, Pav is able to get him the puck.
"It's a give-and-take thing for both. They really complement each other well, and Pav's not the easiest guy to play with. He does a lot of different things that other players can't do and Mule is able to read off him real well."

As you might expect from Datsyuk, he credited everyone but himself for getting his season turned around.

"Everybody comes back from injury and we are playing together now and playing well," he said. "I am playing the same. But the whole team is playing better, that's why it looks like I am playing better."

OK, we need to be more definitive here, so let's ask coach Mike Babcock. What gives with Datsyuk's resurgence that now shows 22 goals and 36 assists in 67 games?

"He can make plays all day long, but if no one ever shoots it in the net, what good is it?" Babcock said. "Mule is a huge talent, he's a big man and he's excited; he hasn't played all year and he's fresh. That helps Pavel and it helps our whole team."

And as McCosky pointed out, Franzen's return gives Babcock some options, too. Against the Flames on Monday, he used Franzen with Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom with Datsyuk for a different look.

"I am going to do that off and on now," Babcock said. "I really like the way that went, back and forth. Either guy can play those spots and I like that."

SIGN'EM UP: Those who wonder why the Red Wings didn't make a big splash at the trade deadline or in free agency this season, here's the reason. GM Ken Holland is thinking ahead.

In addition to carving out minutes for some younger players, Holland wants to get defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and forward Tomas Holmstrom, potential restricted free agents, re-signed.

"Homer and Nick Lidstrom, those guys aren't going anywhere," Holland told the Detroit News. "They just want to be treated fairly. So, I'm running a salary cap. I've got to find a number that fits; one that they feel good about and that I feel good about."

Both players are unlikely to go willingly elsewhere after all the success they've enjoyed in Detroit.

"Detroit has been so good to me over the years," Holmstrom said. "I have been fortunate to be part of four Stanley Cup teams here. I want to stay here and finish my career here."

"If we were talking about a player who was 28, was an unrestricted free agent and had some opportunities (to sign elsewhere), there would probably be a little more urgency," Holland said. "But Nick is 39 and Homer is 37. Both have good hockey left in them, both have been playing great and we want both to play for us next year."

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