DETROIT -- The moment that Johan Franzen has been waiting for has finally arrived.
Franzen will play in his first game since Jan. 6 at Edmonton when he skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Wings' third exhibition game tonight.
"It's going to be fun," Franzen said. "Been training all summer for this, for this moment pretty much. Like the first time I get a chance to see where I'm at, with some real bumping and some real hits out there. It's going to be good."
Franzen said he made it through the exertion of training camp without any problems and is now ready to see how a game goes.
One thing Franzen is certain of, he won't be tentative when playing.
"I'm not worried about that at all," Franzen said. "I'm not going to be afraid to go to the corners or being hit. That's the last thing I think about right now."
The concussion Franzen suffered last January wasn't his first and he went through real struggles in his recovery, often unable to play with his children because of the debilitating post-concussion symptoms.
But Franzen said he didn't consider retiring.
"Maybe you think about it a little bit but it's never a day I took the decision to quit or play, it was always in my mind to keep going," he said.
Coach Jeff Blashill has put Franzen on a line with center Riley Sheahan and wing Luke Glendening.
"I think it could be a good line," Franzen said. "The big bull, Glennie getting some pucks for us and I'm going to help with that, too. Shea has great hands and great hockey sense so hopefully it's going to be good."
Sheahan said it's been fun playing with Franzen.
"He looked great," Sheahan said. "He’s fast. Obviously, when he’s healthy he’s one of our best players. It was awesome having him back and it’s a pleasure playing with him. It seems like he’s got more energy and he’s joking around, he’s happy in the locker room, so I think he’s back in his right place."
Blashill said he just wants Franzen to be himself.
"He’s been a really good player in this league for a long time so I want him to do what he does best," Blashill said. "He’s a very accountable defensive player who obviously has a great ability to score goals. He’s on a line with Sheahan and Glendening. I think the line combination brings energy, brings skating, beings tenacity, brings skill. I think they should be a real good line. I want Johan to get comfortable and then hopefully have a real good night.”
SHEAHAN SEEKS CONSISTENCY
Sheahan is just 23 years old and entering only his second full NHL season but he is expecting much more from himself.
Sheahan had 13 goals and 23 assists in 79 games last year, but thinks he has more to give.
"I think I just held back a little," Sheahan said. "I think maybe I can be a little more assertive when it comes to taking the puck to the net and maybe shooting first, rather than passing. Things like that. Little things I tried to work on over the summer. Be a little stronger so I can be heavy in the corners and things like that."
Sheahan has already established himself as a responsible NHL forward.
"I think Riley is an extremely good two-way center, he’s extremely good defensively," Blashill said. "He’s just continuing to get better and better at adding the offensive elements to his game. He’s got it in him. He’s got ability to be strong on the puck and make passes in small areas and he’s just going to have to continue to do that and hopefully his arc continues to be up."
DATSYUK ON TRACK
Pavel Datsyuk, who had surgery on his ankle in late June, appears to be doing well.
After visiting Dr. Robert Anderson, the doctor who performed the surgery, in Charlotte, North Carolina, Datsyuk tweeted out a positive message:
"Great News! Had a good doctor visit. Recovery from the ankle surgery is on schedule. See you soon back in Detroit."
Datsyuk has not skated and is not expected back until late October-early November.
SVECHNIKOV BACK TO JUNIOR TEAM
The Red Wings made one roster move Thursday, sending their first-round pick in the 2015 draft, Evgeny Svechnikov, to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
Svechnikov made an impression during the prospects tournament, training camp and one preseason game.
"He's real strong on the puck and he's got good offensive ability," Blashill said. "He can protect it, he can make plays in tight areas, he's got a real ability to pass the puck and I know he can score. He's going to have to continue to score to prove that but he's got real good hands. He looks like a big body that has real good physical tools, probably different than what we've had a lot of in terms of our draft picks, we've had some smaller guys with skill, he's a big body that has real good physical tools."
Svechnikov, who turns 19 on Halloween, is 6-2, 199 pounds.
Defenseman Xavier Ouellet has not played in a preseason game due to an upper-body injury.
When Ouellet does return, Blashill said like many young players, he needs to show consistency.
"I think having your A game as many nights as possible and when you don't have your A game, having a B-plus game," Blashill said. "All these guys are trying to find that, especially on the defensive end, especially when you're not a high, high-end offensive guy, with the exception of (Ryan) Sproully, the rest of them are going to have to be great two-way defensemen. I think X, when he plays, he's going to have to have those nights where he's great and have the other nights when he's not great be real good still."
HOWARD TO PLAY ENTIRE GAME
Goaltender Jimmy Howard is scheduled to play the entire game Thursday night, which will give him an opportunity for the 3-on-3 overtime as this game will have it whether it's tied or not.
"I think some teams wanted it, and us specifically, to make sure we had some opportunity to play three on three in case any of the games didn’t end up tied," Blashill said.
Howard came into camp 12 pounds lighter and that has already had a positive effect on his game.
"One, seeing his body comp get to a spot I think will allow him to be real successful, and then two, I think the backdoor save he made in the Red-White game where it was a rebound in front and he was able to scramble from his knees and get to the backdoor, that's a lighter, quicker Jimmy Howard and I think that's a great thing," Blashill said.
Blashill said Petr Mrazek would play the entire game Saturday night.