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Notebook: Wings' line combo sizzles

by Dave Burke / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – The Red Wings have found a top-scoring line that is sizzling.

The combination of Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi combined for nine points in Wednesday’s 7-5 win at Ottawa.

However, it was Franzen who stole the show with the team’s first individual five-goal performance in over 14-years. Zetterberg added three assists, and Bertuzzi also had an assist against the Senators on his 36th birthday.

WingsCast: Hear KEN KAL'S audio calls of Franzen's five goals

“I think Mule and Z have been playing well and then you put Bert with them and that makes them a better line,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

Bertuzzi, who is on pace for his highest point-production in five seasons, said the line-‘s success is a combination of everything.

“Z’s playmaking ability, my size and the way Mule shoots the puck,” Bertuzzi said. “The puck seems to follow him.”

The puck did indeed seem to follow Franzen, whose five-goals set a Red Wings’ all-time road record for goals. He now has a team-high 26 goals this season.

Franzen is the first NHL player to score five goals in a game since Marian Gaborik did so for the Minnesota Wild in 2007.

“When he got those two really quick ones, we were talking on the bench that this might be his night,” Zetterberg said. “He’s a streaky goal scorer.”

The Wings third line got into the fun, too, with Kris Draper getting his fifth goal of the season assisted by Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves. Helm is just two points away from his career high (24 points set last season), benefiting from the injuries he’s making the most of his time and stepping up as Babcock has called for in the past with all the injuries.

Wednesday’s high-scoring affair seemed to be appropriate just coming off of the All-Star break and may have pleased fans, but the high goals-against is something the Wings know they have to eliminate.

“We gave away a little bit too much,” Zetterberg said.

ON THE MEND: One thing that should help the Red Wings and their defensive woes is the return of their injured players.

“Yeah we know the injured guys are getting closer and closer,” said Zetterberg. “It will be good for the team when they get back.” 

Forward Danny Cleary (ankle) returned to the line-up Wednesday, and logged more than 16-minutes in ice time. The game was his first since Dec. 26 when he suffered a fractured left ankle.

Forward Tomas Holmstrom and center Pavel Datsyuk are expected back any day, but Babcock won’t pin a specific date.

FREE ARBY’S FRIES: Franzen’s goal outburst meant that Red Wings’ fans in metro Detroit received a free order of curly fries on Thursday. Fans only have to bring a printed copy of the boxscore to a local Arby’s restaurant when a Wings’ player scores three or more times in a game.

The Mule himself took advantage of the promotion when teammate Ruslan Salei presented him with a tasty treat.

“This is for your hat trick,” said Salei, before both players dug in.

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