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Mule kicks Wings' offense into gear

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
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DETROIT – A significant portion of the Red Wings’ offense went missing when Johan Franzen suffered a torn ACL in October.

Since the Mule’s return in February, the offense has gone through a resurgence, which has resulted in more wins during the most important stretch of the season. Detroit is 12-4-3 when Franzen in the lineup. His four-point effort in Friday’s 6-2 win over Minnesota is a microcosm of what he means to the Wings.

Two days after the line of Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Todd Bertuzzi dominated St. Louis, Franzen led his own line for a goal-filled night. He now has nine goals and six assists in 20 games.

“We’ve been having some pretty good games lately, maybe not last game, but the last couple games before where we haven’t scored,” said Franzen, following his career-best night. “We got a little bit lucky, got the bounces our way.”

Franzen opened up the scoring Friday night when he lured goaltender Josh Harding out of his crease with a deke, then fired it into the empty net. Franzen added a goal and two assists.

Captain Nicklas Lidstrom said that Franzen’s performance gave the Wings a spark.

“I think the first goal really set the tone,” he said. “Just being real patient and faking a shot, having the goalie come out and faking the shot and going around him and scoring. That gave him a lot of confidence and I thought he was skating very well too.”

Wings coach Mike Babcock said that he was hoping to get Franzen a hat trick, but didn’t want to have him out on the ice late in the game. The Wings had the luxury of resting some of their top players due to a four-goal lead in the third period.

“I thought Mule was good,” Babcock said. “It would have been nice to get him the third goal, I wouldn’t put him out on the five-on-three, but it’s just one of those things, he hadn’t scored in a while, it was good to see him get back at it.”

Babcock was vague on the prognosis of Dan Cleary, who left Friday’s game after a hard hit in the second period. Babcock would only say that the forward reinjured his groin. Cleary did not play against Nashville on Saturday. reported that general manager Ken Holland said that Cleary is “day-to-day”.

After the win against Minnesota, Lidstrom was asked how it feels to be fighting for a higher playoff spot, not just fighting to get into the playoffs at all.

“It sure helps,” he said. “It sure helps being on the right side of the eight spot, being the team that’s chasing and trying to catch up. We’re still not out of the woods yet, we know we still have to continue to win to make sure we’re going to make it and be in the playoffs.”

With Saturday’s win in Nashville on Saturday, the Wings moved into sixth place in the Western Conference standings.

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