If all goes well overnight Franzen will return to lineup Sunday; Holland wants Babcock to dress best 12 forwards

DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings are about to try and do something they have yet to do this season at Joe Louis Arena: win three games in a row.

And it looks like they’ll try to do it with Johan Franzen back in the lineup.

If Franzen, who has missed the last 16 games due to a concussion, remains symptom free overnight he’ll return to the lineup against the Florida Panthers Sunday.

“Three days now that I haven’t had any issues,” Franzen said after practice Saturday. “Hopefully I wake up (Sunday) the same way.

“I thought I was going to be out five days because it wasn’t much of a hit and that’s usually how long it takes before you get rid of the headache,” Franzen continued. “It just wouldn’t go away. Just cross my fingers now and hopefully it’s going to stay away.”

Franzen skated on a line with Darren Helm and Daniel Alfredsson at practice.

In order to make room for Franzen on the 23-man roster, the Wings placed Mikael Samuelsson on waivers. He has until noon Sunday to clear or be claimed.

If he clears he could he could be assigned to Grand Rapids.

“I told Mike (Babcock) ‘dress the 12 forwards you think gives us the best chance to beat Florida,’” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “That means if one of the kids isn’t in the lineup he’ll be sent to Grand Rapids instead of Samuelsson. I don’t want the kids here if they’re not in the lineup.”

The kids – Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening and Tomas Jurco – have been impressive since being recalled from the Griffins.

“It’s great, I like the competition,” Babcock said. “The National Hockey League is about the best guys get to play and they get to play the most. These kids have come up and played hard and they’ve extended a challenge, so that’s a good thing.”

Neither Sheahan, Glendening nor Jurco will have to clear waivers in order to be sent back to Grand Rapids.

“They’re either in the top 12 or they’re in Grand Rapids,” Holland said.

Patrick Eaves and Cory Emmerton will have to clear waivers again if the Wings decide to send them back to the Griffins.

Sending Samuelsson to Grand Rapids only clears $100,000 off the salary cap because he signed at age 35, but it does open a valuable roster spot.

“These kids have played pretty well, we got good competition,” Holland said. “And now we’re starting to get healthy. We’ve got tough decisions. We’ll make them as we go.”

From the looks of practice, Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Cleary could be healthy scratches Sunday.

“(Drew Miller) does what he does, he plays hard,” Babcock said. “Him and Glennie and Patty Eaves have been really good the last couple nights. Glennie is a guy who really competes and Millsie really skates and those guys have made it hard on the opposition.”

Pavel Datsyuk (lower-body), Joakim Andersson (lower-body) and Jimmy Howard (knee) won’t play Sunday.

Holland expects Andersson and Howard back either Tuesday on the road in Philadelphia or Friday at home against Washington.

Datsyuk, who will miss his 10th consecutive game on Sunday, would like to play in a few games before the Olympics.

“At the beginning I’m thinking I’ll miss just one game but I can’t start playing,” Datsyuk said. “I (didn’t) think it’s so serious but it’s (kept) me out a few weeks. I have two weeks, (we’ll try) everything to help.”

With a win Sunday the Wings finish their longest homestand of the season at 4-1-0.

“We know how hard it is to win,” Babcock said. “Every opponent is hard for us. Florida has been difficult for us. They’re a big team that really skates and so we’ll have to be ultra-prepared.”

Detroit is 1-1-1 this season against the Panthers.

“It would be huge to get Mule back, he’s a big part of this team,” Helm said. “He has a pretty deadly shot, he’s a threat anytime he has the puck on his stick and that causes a lot of problems. Guys will be excited he’s back. There will be extra energy in the room, like there was when (Jonathan Ericsson) and Alfie came back. Hopefully he gets cleared and will be ready to go. I look forward to playing with him if I get that opportunity.”

Henrik Zetterberg was given the day off from practice.

“We decided before this stretch, because we played every second day, I’ve given them lots of maintenance days just because of the grind,” Babcock said. “We’ll get back to more of a normal schedule once we’re through.”


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