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Non-Olympians return to work at JLA

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Johan Franzen participated in the Red Wings' practice Wednesday. It was the team's first practice after a 10-day Olympic break. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – Following a 10-day Olympic break, the Red Wings’ non-Olympians were back at practice Wednesday afternoon, including Johan Franzen and Stephen Weiss.

Seeing the two veterans practicing with the team is a terrific sign. Perhaps it’s also a sign that Franzen and Weiss could return to the Wings’ lineup sooner than later.

With Mike Babcock still coaching Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics, Wings associate coach Tom Renney and assistant coach Bill Peters conducted a little on-ice workout to get players acclimated to practicing again.

“It was that type of skate where all we wanted to do was get their feet under them, get some activity again, nothing really competitive or combative for that matter,” Renney said. “We’ll crank it up a little more tomorrow and see how they do. First day I thought everyone looked fine.”

Regardless of the practice’s tempo, both Franzen and Weiss said they felt good following the 45-minute workout at Joe Louis Arena.

While Weiss is still on course to be available for the Wings’ first game back in Montreal next Wednesday, Franzen isn’t as sure of his immediate future simply because of the uncertainty of his post-concussion symptom situation.

Following a vacation in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Franzen has been symptom-free since suffering through a bout of severe headaches after he played he last played on Jan. 26.

“I’ve been able to work out fine,” Franzen said. “It’s when I’m getting into a lot of movement, a lot of stuff going on around me like what’s going on on the ice and that’s when it’s triggered.”

Though he hasn’t experienced headaches or dizziness for a few weeks, he won’t be fooled into thinking that he’s conquered the symptoms just yet.

“Even if I felt good the last two weeks without doing anything doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “I’ve got to get a few practices in to see how I really feel.”

With 10 players still in Russia, it was necessary for the Wings to call up players from Grand Rapids just to have enough bodies for a full practice. Called up were Cory Emmerton, Riley Sheahan, Teemu Pulkkinen and Adam Almquist.

“I thought they worked hard, they tried to execute,” Renney said. “That’s not always going to come natural when you come off a break like this but the work habits were good. The things we did weren’t as detailed, which frees them, which was important. We just wanted them to be free and skate, get the puck back on their sticks.”

While many of his teammates traveled to warm locations, Weiss, who had sports hernia surgery on Dec. 23, stayed behind to practice with his former Ontario Hockey League team in suburban Plymouth.

Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan, Weiss said.

“I skated with the Whalers twice last week and then I got really sick, actually,” he said. “I was sick the whole week up until pretty much today when I first started feeling better. So it was a tough week trying to squeeze in all of the activities without having that going on. But it felt good to have the guys back and I went into practice-mode.”

As far as his groin and abdomen are concern, Weiss said he’s right on schedule to return once the NHL season fires back up next week.

“I don’t know about specific games, I just know that we were shooting for after this break to be ready to be available to play,” Weiss said. “So that’s obviously going to be up to the coaches whether or not they put me in the lineup but that’s still the plan – to be ready and available for those first couple of games back.”

Keeping his fingers crossed the same goes for Franzen, who hopes to play against the Canadiens next week.

“If everything goes smoothly, yeah,” he said, “I’m planning to be there.”

AMPING UP: The Red Wings will practice Thursday at The Joe and take Friday off before amping up practice at McCann Ice Arena on the campus of the University of Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods on Saturday and Sunday.

“We have to. Our guys who are coming back to join us are busy playing hockey,” Renney said. “They have to come back to a group of people that are mentally alert and aware and ready to play, and physically the same thing.”

HANDLING OLYMPIANS: Red Wings forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco are expected to return to Detroit some time Thursday after their countries were eliminated from the Olympic playoff round.

How the coaches will help get them re-acclimated to the team’s pace has been determined, Renney said.

“That’s a discussion we’ll have,” he said. “Certainly having played in an intense competition like that you got to think they need a little bit of time. But also they may have some nicks and bruises, we got to pay attention to that.”

ZETTERBERG’s RETURN: Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg is also expected to return on the league’s charter flight from Sochi to Newark, N.J. on Thursday. He’ll then make the short trip to Detroit.

Zetterberg pulled out of the Olympics last week after his herniated disk flared up causing the veteran center excruciating pain in his lower back. He's not expected to be in the lineup when the Red Wings play in Montreal next Wednesday.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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