Monthly Archives: February 2014

Senators’ Neil: “I’d take my cape off (if Johan Franzen) took the yellow streak off down the middle of his back.”

DETROIT >> Johan Franzen has picked up right where he left off.

And that’s a very good sign for the Detroit Red Wings as they fight to extend their record run for berths in the postseason to 23 seasons.

Since returning from a concussion, Franzen has three goals and two assists over two games.

“He finds different ways to score and he’s in the right spots and he makes things happen out there,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We’re happy he’s back playing for us. Obviously he’s a big part of our team.”

After missing 16 straight games due to a concussion he returned for one game before going back to the sidelines for the final six games before the Olympic break.

“The key for me is that he’s healthy,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s hard to do it when you’re sitting in the press box. He’s an important player for us. He has the ability, he has the touch. Lots of guys play hard and don’t score, Mule can score.”

Prior to getting sidelined on Dec. 15 when Tampa Bay’s Radko Gudas hit him in the face during a battle for the puck, Franzen had seven goals and 10 assists over his last 17 games.

Having Franzen find his scoring touch will help a team that has lost Henrik Zetterberg for the rest of the regular season after having back surgery.

And playing Ottawa always seems to help Franzen’s offensive output. He has 11 goals in his past four games against the Senators, including a five-goal outburst back in 2011.

“I like playing here,” Franzen said. “They’ve got Erik Karlsson on the other side. We grew up in the same little town. It’s fun to come in and play him. It’s something special every time. Just happy anytime we can keep him from the scoreboard, but it’s always fun to play him too.”

Franzen has 12 goals and 16 assists through 33 games this season.

“Regardless of where he is the puck’s coming to him,” Kronwall said. “Happy he’s back playing.”

“He’s obviously a really good player,” goalie Jonas Gustavsson said. “It’s always tough when you miss a piece like Zetterberg. You can’t really replace him, but the guys that are playing are really doing a good job. They showed that the whole season because we’ve been having a lot of injuries.

“We know what everyone in this organization is capable of and we believe in our group, whoever we put on the ice,” Gustavsson continued. “That’s the way it’s going to be, we can’t really focus on injured guys, we’ve got to focus on the guys that are playing. If you look at the talent we have in this organization we should be fine no matter how many injures we get.”

But Franzen’s growing concern is concussions becoming a recurring thing.

“It’s always going to be in the back of my head that it might come back because it did the last time,” Franzen said. “(I’ve) just got to go out there and try and see what happens.”

And that’s what made the incident Franzen, who notched his third career hat trick earlier in the game, had with Senators tough guy Chris Neil in the third period Thursday very alarming.

Neil ripped Franzen’s helmet off and then began to rough up the Wings forward.

“It’s probably not the best thing to do, getting hit in the face, but I don’t know, maybe the ref can stop that before it happens, I don’t know,” Franzen said. “He hit me once, but then the ref came in.”

Franzen began laughing on the ice when Neil, who received a roughing and a 10-minute misconduct penalty, tried to engage him to fight.

“I think he got a little upset,” Franzen said. “I don’t know (why), I have no clue. He usually shows up when the game’s over and tries to be the hero. Puts his cape on and goes and flies around out there. He doesn’t like to take heat from fans and coaches, I think. He usually steps up when the game is over and shows everyone that he really fights hard.”

Franzen also received a 10-minute misconduct.

“He tried to high-stick me after the draw right away and then he came after me, so I tried to stay close to him,” Franzen said. “(I don’t know) if he was going to run me into anything. He decided to rip the helmet off and hit me in the face.”

The two teams don’t meet again this regular season.

Neil, who didn’t speak after the game, addressed the incident Friday.

“The first shift and any shift he wants,” Neil told the Ottawa media after practice. “(If) he wants to drop his purse, take the lipstick out, put it on his lips and ‘Let’s go.’ Anytime. Any day. Anywhere. I’m 6-foot-1, 215 pounds. He’s 6-foot-4, 240 pounds. I’m giving up height. I’m giving up weight. I’m not scared of him. Bring it on.”

Despite his size, Franzen is a skill player and not anywhere near a fighter.

“I’d take my cape off (if) he took the yellow streak off down the middle of his back,” Neil said.

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Olympic experience ‘fantastic’ for Babcock

DETROIT >> Wings coach Mike Babcock summed up his Olympic experience quickly, “A home run.”

“I mean the Russian people were fantastic, the place was beautiful, the event was well, well run, the food was good, the weather was great, classy, classy place,” Babcock continued. “It’s interesting the message that was sent media-wise prior and what was reality were night and day different.”

Babcock guided Canada to a second straight gold medal.

“I mean being an Olympian is a special thing. Obviously being with all the other Canadian athletes and sharing the Olympic experience with country members is a special, special thing. Anytime you get to hear your national anthem sung in a different part of the world it makes it that much more special so those are all things I’ll remember.”

No coaches get medals at the Olympics, but Canada found a way to get him one last time and a ring.

“I’m sure they will again this time so I’m not that concerned,” Babcock said. “The other thing I’d say to you is when you win you win.”

Wings ready to begin life without their captain, Henrik Zetterberg

DETROIT >> Life without the captain begins Wednesday night in Montreal for the Detroit Red Wings.

“It’s going to be tough,” said Justin Abdelkader, on the loss of Henrik Zetterberg for the rest of the regular season. “We have to move forward with the group in here now. We can’t just keep answering the questions anymore about the guys that are out. He’s our captain, he’s our leader. It’s life without Z. We have to worry about the guys in here.”

“He’s the one who drives the train in here and you know it’s going to be tough without him but it’s no excuse,” Jimmy Howard said. “There are still a lot of great hockey players in this dressing room and we just have to play our game.”

Zetterberg had surgery on Friday to remove part of a disc which was rubbing against a nerve, which caused severe back pain.

“Well you just deal with it,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “No sense worrying about it. We’ve got to find a way to get in (the playoffs). That’s what we’re going to do.”

Zetterberg played one game for Sweden at the Olympics before withdrawing.

“That’s a big loss,” Tomas Tatar said. “He was carrying. He’s the type of player when it’s a tied game he can decide it. But we’ve dealt with it before. (Injuries) have been happening all season long. It’s not easy to deal with, but it’s just hockey. Some seasons are like this, you get unlucky. We have good Grand Rapids guys that are filling the gap. They’ve come up and done a really good job and given us a chance to be where we’re at right now.”

Despite playing in just 45 of the Wings’ 58 games this season, Zetterberg leads the team in goals (16), assists (32), shots on goal (151) and plus-minus (plus-19).

“He’s our captain and best player so it’s a big loss,” Joakim Andersson said. “We have a lot of other good players that can do good stuff to make up for it and win games.

“We’ve been without Hank and (Pavel Datsyuk) a lot this year and many others,” Andersson continued. “We’ve been missing all our best players a bunch before so we know we can win games without them.”

The rest of the Wings’ injury news is a bit murky.

Datsyuk (knee) and Johan Franzen (concussion) appear ready to return to the lineup against the Canadiens, but that decision won’t be made until after the morning skate.

“I hope,” Datsyuk said when asked if he’s playing Wednesday. “I hope so one day the pain is (gone). Now it’s still the same.”

Datsyuk missed 14 of Detroit’s final 16 games before the Olympic break, but did play all five games with Russia finishing with six points in five games.

Franzen, who has missed 22 of the last 23 games, has been cleared to return. He had 17 points over his last 17 games before suffering a concussion on Dec. 15.

“It’s probably just the history of it coming back and stuff like that so let’s get this last practice in (Wednesday) morning and then we decide after,” Franzen said. “(Tuesday) was really good. Sunday was not as good as today but today was good.”

Two players that won’t return over the next two games are Stephen Weiss (sport hernia surgery) and Jakub Kindl (MCL).

“I still need a few more days of practice, obviously the decision will be up the coaching staff when they think I’ll be ready to come back and play in a game and make a decision whether they want me to play a game in Grand Rapids or just play up with us,” Weiss said. “Those decisions will be made in the next few days.”

Weiss made the trip to continue to practice.

Kindl missed the last two games before the break.

“I don’t feel any pain, but I feel my right leg is just a little weaker than the other one,” Kindl said. “I just need to practice and get that confidence back in my knee.”

Ryan Sproul was recalled from Grand Rapids and will make the trip to Montreal.

This and that … Kindl questionable Wednesday according to Holland; Swedes will get Tuesday off

DETROIT >> Wings general manager Ken Holland said that defenseman Jakub Kindl (MCL) is questionable for Wednesday’s game in Montreal.

The team has also given the players that played for Sweden at the Olympics — Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Daniel Alfredsson, Gustav Nyquist and Jonas Gustavsson — the day off on Tuesday.

In order for practice, the team recalled defenseman Ryan Sproul from Grand Rapids.

Stephen Weiss (sports hernia surgery) opted to practice instead of play a game with Grand Rapids on Sunday.

“I’d still like to practice more,” Weiss said. “I haven’t had that much time to practice. (I need to) do some more contact drills, more than one day, before playing a game might be smart.”

The Wings need Weiss back to replace Zetterberg at center.

“Z is a huge loss for us,” Weiss said. “I’m not thinking about coming in and replacing him. I’ve got to do my own thing and play my game, but we’re going to need guys to step up and fill that void. I definitely put some of that onus on myself.”

Johan Franzen (concussion) said he’s optimistic he’ll be ready to return to the lineup Wednesday in Montreal. He still needs clearance from doctors.

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Many Wings hope 2014 wasn’t the last year NHL particpates in Olympics

DETROIT >> Could the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, have been the last time NHL players take part?

That seems like a very distinct possibility, but many of the Wings feel their participation should continue.

“We were filling some forms and they were asking us questions,” Tomas Tatar said. “I don’t think the Olympics would be the same for hockey, especially. You want to have the best, elite at the Olympics.”

“It’s great NHL players have been going over there, but obviously, logistically it’s tough to travel as far as we have and miss that much during the regular season, having a big break like that is tough,” Justin Abdelkader said. “We’ll see. That’ll be a hot topic next couple of years.”

There are many issues with NHL players taking part in the Olympics, including time differences, injuries and the fact that the league is shut down for two and a half weeks.

The 2018 Winter Olympics are in Pyeongchang, South Korea, a country that’s 14 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone.

The Wings have lost Henrik Zetterberg for possibly the rest of the season due to a herniated disc, which he had surgery on Friday to repair. It’s an injury that’s plagued him all season.

“I know for owners and managers the injuries are not the best,” said Tatar, who played in his first Olympics with Slovakia. “But injuries are part of hockey, injuries can happen here, too.”

Zetterberg played in one game with Sweden before withdrawing.

The New York Islanders lost John Tavares for the season with a knee injury he suffered in the quarterfinals.

“You see players sustain an injury to keep them out the rest of the year, it’s tough, but at the same time playing in the Olympics is something special,” Abdelkader said. “Playing for your country, there’s something to be said for that. I could see it both ways. It’s definitely going to be a hot topic in the coming year.”

NHL players have participated in the Olympics since 1998.

“The Olympics has always been something special because of that (NHL participation), all the best players can be there,” Johan Franzen said. “I think all the players want to go there, too. It’s a little bit of a break for the league, but we have a break every year with the all-star break. This is longer, but I think they should continue doing what they’ve been doing because it’s a big deal to win that gold.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said a final decision on the NHL’s participation would come within the next six months.

Wings assistant coach Tom Renney was the coach of Canada in the last Olympics that didn’t use NHL players, 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway.

“It is a tough call,” Renney said. “I think if I’m an owner and a general manager I’m real skeptical of whether or not our guys should participate in this quite honestly. If I’m a player, I want to go. Having been there I can relate to that.”

Renney, who guided Canada to a silver medal in 1994, is in favor of letting the Olympics be played by amateurs and/or younger professionals and possibly bringing back the World Cup of hockey for the NHL players.

“Let the young, great players in our game play at the under-23 level and it still becomes an exciting and outstanding event,” Renney said.

Season could be over for Zetterberg

DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings will be without one of their best players night in and night out for perhaps the rest of the season.

Henrik Zetterberg underwent successful back surgery Friday that will sideline him at least eight weeks.

“It went very well,” Wings assistant general manager Ryan Martin said in a phone interview Friday. “They had to remove part of a disc that was rubbing on a nerve.”

There’s a chance Zetterberg could return for the first round of the playoffs, if the Wings are able to qualify.

“It’s exactly what they thought it was so the recovery process looks very positive,” Martin said.

Martin said that Zetterberg was expected to begin walking around Friday.

“That’s a really good sign,” Martin said. “We feel confident this procedure will help in the long term.”

The team placed him in long-term injured reserve.

“Of course it’s going to affect us, Hank is our leader and he’s probably our best player on the ice every night,” Niklas Kronwall said earlier this season when Zetterberg was sidelined with a herniated disc. “But at the same time, again anytime someone goes down it’s another opportunity for someone else to step up and get some more ice time, take upon some more responsibility and it’s just about doing the job every night, regardless of who’s in the lineup. If we can just stick to the process and keep believing in what we do, we should be fine.”

The procedure was performed by Dr. Frank Cammisa at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

Zetterberg, 33, missed 11 games in December with that slightly herniated disc. He also missed two games in January due to it.

“Once you have issues with your back you always will and you learn to live with it and play with it,” Zetterberg said earlier this season. “But at the same time you know when it’s worse than normal. That’s how it is right now. Sitting is the worst. I think anyone with back issues knows that. In a way I’m more mobile know than I was in ’08 so that’s a good sign.”

Zetterberg played just one game for Sweden at the Olympics before withdrawing from the tournament due to server back pain.

Zetterberg began having issues with his back in 2008, which made him miss the All-Star break.

In 2007, he injured his vertebra and missed several weeks.

Zetterberg still leads the team in every offensive category – goals (16), assists (32) – and plus-minus rating (plus-19) despite missing 13 games.

The team could have Stephen Weiss (sports hernia) and Johan Franzen (concussion) back when play resumes Wednesday in Montreal.

This could also affect what the team does with Luke Glendening, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco, who will all practice Saturday and Sunday with the Wings.

“We’ll make roster decisions on Monday or Tuesday,” Martin said.

This injury could also make the Wings very active come the trade deadline.

Weiss heading to Grand Rapids for a game Sunday with the Griffins

DETROIT >> Stephen Weiss’ planned time to practice with the Plymouth Whalers was cut short.

Weiss practiced twice with Plymouth before getting real sick.

“I was sick the whole week up until pretty much (Wednesday) when I first started feeling better,” Weiss said. “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.”

Weiss is still recovering from sport hernia surgery on Dec. 23. He expects to be cleared prior to Wednesday’s game in Montreal.

“I don’t know about specific games, I just know that we were shooting for after the 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.”

Weiss will play Sunday in Grand Rapids when the Griffins host the Milwaukee Admirals.