DETROIT – Johan Franzen was feeling more like himself Thursday, and the Red Wings are hoping that clean bill of health can translate to more offensive production on the ice for the veteran forward.
“We need him playing hard,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Everybody on the team, if your work doesn’t come before your skill you got no chance to be any good. Period. So if you’re not a worker, no chance in today’s NHL. Period. … You got to skate and got to work, and if you can’t you got to have people around you that flat-out can. But you can only have one guy per line max that doesn’t really haul.”
Feeling a little under the weather lately, Franzen missed Tuesday’s game with Columbus, but he was back practicing Thursday before declaring himself ready for Friday’s home game against the New York Islanders.
“I’ve just been battling flus, stomach flus, regular flus, for the last few weeks,” said Franzen, who has produced six goals and 19 points in 25 games. “I just haven’t been able to get healthy. Beginning of this week I just felt really, really awful, like no energy, nothing. I figured I needed a couple days just to get healthy.”
With an outbreak of mumps making headlines across the NHL these days, the Wings made sure Franzen didn’t have the virus.
“I did all the tests (Wednesday),” Franzen said. “I’ve been battling stuff the last few weeks. Enough was enough. I just needed to get rid of it. Sunday I got really, really sick. Tuesday I tried to skate in the morning skate and I was really shaky. I just was running on empty.”
The lack of energy certainly begins to explain Franzen’s recent scoring slump. He has one goal and eight points with a minus-10 rating in his past 15 games. Since scoring at Winnipeg Nov. 20, he has gone 12 straight games without a goal.
His recent plus-minus bothers Franzen, which he chalks up to bad luck, but other aspects of his game have been fine, “mostly in the corners, passing pucks,” he said.
With Stephen Weiss (shoulder) ineligible to return before Sunday’s game against Colorado, Franzen can slip back into the lineup without the Red Wings needing to make a roster move. He skated on the left side of Riley Sheahan’s line, opposing Tomas Jurco during Thursday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena.
“Obviously it was a bit of struggle for him being sick,” Babcock said. “Anybody who misses (time) it’s hard. Ideally, he’ll be energized by tomorrow and he can help us when he’s energized. He’s had a bug now for a couple week or whatever. Hopefully he’s through it and can get going.”
LIMITING CHANCES: The Red Wings are one of two teams currently in the top 10 with fewest goals against, fewest shots against and average penalty minutes taken per game.
With that type of attention to detail, it’s no wonder the Red Wings surrendered so few scoring chances and find themselves tied with the Islanders and Montreal for third place in the Eastern Conference standings.
“Organized work,” Babcock explained. “Good players that work hard and commit without (the puck). … We normally give up no chances off the rush and we don’t give up much in our own zone. We have to get back to give up no chances but we got to be way better at their net than we’ve been in the last four games.”
Goalie - DET
GAA: 2.05 | Sv%: .922
Detroit is averaging 11.5 goals for every four-game segment this season. However, the last four-game stretch, which ended Tuesday, produced just four goals and four losses, the fewest and longest, respectively, during this season.
“The game in Toronto we were awful but now it’s starting to become a pattern,” Babcock said. “It’s not like we started to react today. We’ve been reacting since the first one. It’s like anything. We didn’t score for a long time, we found ways to win defensively. We got to score a little bit more and we got to keep it out. But I thought Howie had a great game the other night. I thought Howie was better than our team.”
Jimmy Howard has been sensational all season long for the Red Wings. He’s top 10 among league goaltenders in wins (13), goals-against average (2.05), and shutouts (2).
But according to Babcock, the Wings’ forwards must do better at getting to the net.
“You got to shoot the puck, you got to get inside, you got to be relentless in the offensive zone if you want to score,” he said. “You got to hit the thing with the red around it. That red post is the guideline. You got to get inside there somehow.”
Left Wing - DET
Goals: 7 | Assists: 8 | Pts: 15
Shots: 55 | +/-: 6
After missing seven games, forward Justin Abdelakder returned to the Wings lineup, logging nearly 16 ½ minutes with one shot on goal and two hits in Tuesday’s loss to the Blue Jackets.
“I felt pretty good,” he said. “Obviously condition-wise, I got tired fairly quickly. No worse. It's going to be one of those things where it's going to be sore for a bit but I'll be able to play through it. It's manageable.”
Abdelkader, who suffered a particularly separated left shoulder Nov. 30, absorbed a pretty big hit Tuesday. It came early in the second period on a quality scoring chance from the low slot. After he got off a shot from the low slot – which was swept safely away by Sergei Bobrovsky at 3:35 – Brandon Dubinsky leveled a blind-side hit to Abdelkader’s right side, which seemed to sting him at first.
“It was all right,” he said. “I felt fine.”
Center - DET
Goals: 4 | Assists: 6 | Pts: 10
Shots: 16 | +/-: 4
Weiss, who was placed on seven-day injured reserve earlier this week, participated in Thursday’s team practice. While the veteran forward is hopeful for a return to the lineup Sunday against the Avalanche, his status remains uncertain.
“It’s tough to say,” he said. “That’s what I’m shooting for. I’m hoping it’s ready by Sunday, but we’ll know Saturday. It’s tough to say right now. It really is like a day-to-day type thing.”
Weiss injured his left shoulder when he fell awkwardly and head-first into the boards against his former team, Florida, last Friday. The play occurred late in the second period as he went to play the puck along the wall with Sean Bergenheim chasing from behind.
“It was a weird play, I was just kinda slightly turning and just lost my balance,” Weiss said. “It wasn’t a bad hit or anything, just I don’t know, it really was a weird play. I just fell forward and lost my balance at a bad spot, a couple feet from the boards. I had to put my arm up to protect myself and sometimes you get a way with it and sometimes you don’t.”
Weiss tried to return for the start of the third period, but he knew his night was done early.
“There was only a few seconds left in the second so I went into the room,” he said. “I tried to come back but I couldn’t get my jersey on. So it was a good sign there that it probably wasn’t smart to go out.”
Since returning last month from a problematic groin injury, which limited him to one game in the first 6 ½ weeks of the season, Weiss has been on fire, producing four goals and six assists with a plus-4 rating in 11 games.
At least the injury doesn’t prevent him from skating, which will be a benefit once he’s given the all-clear to return to the lineup.
“Yeah, it’s not the ideal thing, but again, what are you going to do?” Weiss said. “It’s part of the game. If I could go back I’d chance the way I approach that play, but that’s in hindsight. Hopefully it keeps rolling when I get a chance to come back. Gotta step in there and keep going.”