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Wings' Franzen hopes to play this season

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Johan Franzen was helped off the ice by Red Wings trainer Piet Van Zant in Edmonton on Jan. 6. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT -- In spite of everything, Johan Franzen hopes he can play this season.

Franzen, 35, played in just 33 games last season and none after Jan. 6 because of a severe concussion, which was not his first.

Franzen has been on the ice for informal skates at Joe Louis Arena and spoke with reporters after Wednesday's session.

"It feels good so far," Franzen said. "It’s probably too early to tell until I start playing games. I’m going at it hard – a little bit too much, actually – just to see that I can take it."

Franzen said he continues to get treatment but has not consulted with his doctors lately.

For now, Franzen is intent on pushing himself hard before training camp to see how much he can handle.

"My threshold is getting higher and higher every week," Franzen said. "I try to listen to my body and push as hard as I can, but if I have a setback I kind of let off a little bit and then start from scratch again and see how much I can take. It’s kind of just been building up ever since the playoffs."

Franzen said he had a setback as recently as last week.

"It’s four hours of working out, going on the ice, going biking, going full out, it kind of triggers it," Franzen said. "I don’t know if it’s smart or not, but I do that. I think if I can do that, I can get through a game, or 82 games, hopefully. The way I work out then is going to be different than it is now. It’s going to be shorter, more explosive. A game is going to be different and I think it’s going to be easier. You’re going to get bumped a lot and there’s the mental stuff, too but physically it’s going to be easier than what I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks."

Franzen's teammates are happy to see him out on the ice.

"It’s awesome, great to have him back," Niklas Kronwall said. "He’s happy, he’s working hard, he just wants to play, so I’m happy for him. That was our biggest acquisition, maybe, getting healthy Johan Franzen back."

Justin Abdelkader said Franzen looks to be in great shape but said they're not counting on him for sure this season.

"He'd definitely be a big bonus if he could be healthy at the start of the season," Abdelkader said. "I think it's a wait and see approach. Obviously how things finished, he's got to get out, he's got to get bumped a little bit, be in some contact and kind of probably see how it goes from there. If he does play for us, he's a perennial 20-25-goal scorer at least. He's a big body that could definitely help us."

Franzen's career high is 34 goals and 59 points, set in the 2008-09 season.

He scored 29 goals in 77 games in the 2011-12 season but only 14, 16 and 7 in the last three injury-marred years.

Franzen said he expects to be ready for the regular season but there are still hurdles he has to clear.

"Of course the next step is the battle level and getting hit," Franzen said. "The main issue has been the exertion when I get really tired. That’s when my head has been shutting down. So if I can take that I think I can take a few bumps."

There are many who will worry about Franzen if he ends up playing this season, including his family.

"They don’t want to see like I was before," Franzen said. "I don’t think they want to see me grumpy being home and not being able to play either. I think they’re happy to see me improving every day. They’re looking forward to seeing me play another year, or five."

Ultimately, the doctors will have the deciding vote on whether Franzen should play this season.

But Franzen is not ready to call it a career yet.

"It’s been so many tough years here the last 2-3 years with injuries, I just want to have a good year," Franzen said. "I want to decide on my own when I quit. I’m excited to try to get back and to have a good year."

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