Johan Franzen left the game Sunday following a second-period hit to the head by Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)
DETROIT - After missing the past 16 games with a head injury, forward Johan Franzen will return to Detroit’s lineup Sunday when the Red Wings host the Florida Panthers.
“He can really shoot the puck,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Any time you come back from an injury, I don’t know how you’re going to respond. I mean, Helmer’s an example of that. I don’t know what to expect from the Mule. We’re just going to play him and see how it goes.”
Franzen suffered a concussion after taking a hit to the head by Tampa Bay defenseman Radko Guda in a 3-0 loss to the Lightning on Dec. 15. Franzen will be the fourth player to return from injury in Detroit’s last four games.
“Obviously it’s an important thing for us,” Babcock said. “We need all hands on deck if we’re going to be successful. I think these kids have given us some energy. What it does is it gives some of our veteran guys for example who are sitting out a chance to freshen up, which doesn’t kill anybody either. Those kids have brought us good energy.”
To make room for Franzen’s return, veteran forward Mikael Samuelsson was assign to the club's minor-league affiliate and forward Daniel Cleary is a healthy scratch against Florida.
While Babcock didn’t have an update on when goaltender Jimmy Howard will return, he is confident that center Joakim Andersson will be in the lineup when the Red Wings travel to Philadelphia Tuesday.
“Andersson will be in next game,” Babcock said. “We wanted him, but we weren’t allowed.”
Sunday’s game against the Panthers will conclude Detroit’s successful five-game home stand, as they have won three of their last four games at The Joe. Florida currently holds a 2-1 record against the Red Wings this season, but Detroit was victorious in the last meeting between the two clubs, earning a 4-3 victory in Sunrise, FLA., on Dec. 28.
“Size speed, they move the puck well from the back end,” Babcock said of the Panthers. “(Tim) Thomas gives them a chance in net. I really am impressed with what they’ve done draft-wise. They’re big down the middle, hard to play against, and they roll around the offensive zone. To me, they’re a pretty good hockey club.”