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Franzen to return Tuesday vs. Blues

by Michelle Crechiolo / Detroit Red Wings
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DETROIT – After a four-month layoff, power forward Johan Franzen will make his much-awaited return to the Red Wings’ lineup Tuesday in St. Louis.

Franzen needed surgery to repair a torn left ACL suffered in the Wings’ home opener on Oct. 8. The projected recovery time for a significant injury like his, can take up to six months, but Franzen feels healthy and ready to get back to the grind.

“I’m really excited,” Franzen said. “I had a good practice today, and this was my first practice actually being in a line, so it was more fun. Hopefully with a good first game I can get some confidence, and hopefully feel good in the other games, too.”

Franzen has been an incredibly dominant force for the Wings, especially in the playoffs. During last season’s run to the Stanley Cup finals, he was second on the team with 23 points. His ability to generate offense also has his teammates anxiously awaiting his return.

“You’re talking about getting a player that is big, strong, and can dominate a hockey game,” Kris Draper said. “Right now, that’s something we’re certainly looking forward to having.

“Everyone’s seen him day in, day out, how hard he’s worked, off the ice and certainly on the ice. We’re thrilled to have him back in the lineup.”

While Wings coach Mike Babcock is as excited as anyone for Mule’s return, he warned against expecting too much, too soon from a player who has been removed from the speed, strength, and intensity of the NHL.

“The big thing is let’s not get our expectations out of whack,” Babcock said. “The guy hasn’t played since game three this year. That makes it hard for any player to get up to speed, and he’s going to be in a battle, but the thing about the Mule is he can shoot the puck, he’s a big, powerful guy, and ideally, he can help.”

There have been debates on whether Franzen should have waited to return after the Vancouver Olympics in order to get more rest. Franzen dispelled these arguments, saying he thinks it will be beneficial to play a few games for his body to gradually return to game shape.

“I think it will be good to get started here,” he said, “and then I will probably feel pretty bad, all my muscles will probably be sore, so get a good break in there and then I will be on the same page as the other guys are when we come back, hopefully.”

INJURY REPORT: The Red Wings will likely be without one defenseman and two forwards when they face off against the Blues at Scottrade Center on Tuesday.

“We’d like everyone to be at practice and be able to practice and know that they’re playing, that just hasn’t been the case for us,” Babcock said. “I’m hopeful that these guys are all returning tomorrow, I don’t know the answer to that though.”

Defenseman Nicklas Kronwall will more than likely miss Tuesday’s game to rest his troublesome knee. While he felt good in practice Monday, he is waiting for a different brace to come in that will make his knee “even more solid” and expects to play Thursday against Western Conference-leading San Jose.

“I can’t wait to get back in the lineup,” Kronwall commented.

Forward Patrick Eaves did not skate after a sustaining a sprained left ankle in Saturday’s loss in Los Angeles. Forward Tomas Holmstrom got on the ice for a short time, but left practice early. Both are doubtful for Tuesday.

Forward Drew Miller, who was questionable after taking a shot off his left ankle on Saturday, will dress against the Blues. He was apprehensive before hitting the ice for Monday’s practice, but all of his worries were alleviated once he began skating.

“I just didn’t know how it’d feel in the skate,” Miller said, “but I got out there and was able to go the whole practice, and it felt good, so I’m ready to go.”

TOLLEFSEN HEADS TO GR: Defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen cleared waivers after the noon deadline passed on Monday, and will begin playing with Grand Rapids Griffins immediately.

In order to clear salary-cap space for Franzen’s return, the Wings acquired Tollefsen and a ffith-round draft pick in 2011 on Saturday from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for forward Ville Leino.

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