|Franzen finally back in Red Wings lineup|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 26 May 2008 14:22|
After scoring an NHL-best 12 goals in 11 playoff games, the Detroit Red Wings forward had been sidelined since May 8 because of recurring headaches. He was cleared to return to practice last Friday and had been waiting for doctors to give him the OK to play in a game.
On Monday morning, that clearance came - but not until moments after Red Wings coach Mike Babcock ruled him out of Monday night's Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Franzen, who has missed six games, practiced with his teammates Monday for the morning skate and then was deemed healthy enough to return. He said Sunday that he had been symptom-free for 7-to-10 days.
Babcock was slipped a note at his pregame news conference that said Franzen's status was unchanged and he would miss that night's game. The coach got good news just after his media session ended and he strode down the hallway at Joe Louis Arena proclaiming it.
``Mule's been cleared. He's in. Pass the word,'' Babcock said.
It remains to be seen how effective he will be after not playing for 2 1/2 weeks.
Known as ``The Mule,'' Franzen scored 27 goals in 72 games during the regular season. He scored an NHL-best 27 times in 27 games since March 2 - including 11 game-winners - and has scored a franchise-record 12 goals in the postseason.
He became the first NHL player to score 12 playoff goals since Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour in 2002, a total matched by teammate Henrik Zetterberg in Detroit's 4-0 win in Game 1 over Pittsburgh.
``He's going to have to be ready to play playoff hockey,'' Penguins coach Michel Therrien said Monday. ``That means with all the intensity, with all the contact, and it's demanding. We're aware he's a good player, but we're going to play hard.
``He's a good player, one of their best players right now, but he's not going to have any free pass.''
To make room in the lineup, the Red Wings scratched Darren McCarty.
RINGING THE BELL: The Penguins were jostled when a fire alarm sounded at their hotel around 1:30 a.m. Monday.
Having to be at Joe Louis Arena just hours later for the morning skate before Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals, some players never made it outside. Rugged forward Jarkko Ruutu said he pulled a pillow over his head.
``I didn't even move out of my bed when that thing went off. Someone said Whits (defenseman Ryan Whitney) was making some bacon,'' forward Ryan Malone joked.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was asleep when the alarm roused him.
``That's one that we've gone through before. I'm sure it's just a coincidence,'' he said with a laugh.
YOUNG GUNS: As has become an annual tradition, the NHL brought several of its top draft prospects to the Stanley Cup finals to tour the locker rooms and meet the current players competing for hockey's ultimate prize.
It was not that long ago that 19-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal was in that position. Just two years ago, Staal visited Edmonton when the Oilers took on the Carolina Hurricanes. What added intrigue to that moment was Jordan's older brother Eric was making his first appearance in the finals.
Jordan was met with some stares and laughs as he met some of the Oilers, who for that series were clearly the enemy.
``It was special,'' Jordan said Monday before Game 2 of the finals. ``Obviously, it's a free trip to watch your brother but at the same time it was pretty neat to see my brother make it to the finals. It made me realize that maybe I could do it myself.''
Like Eric, who is two years older, Jordan was chosen with the second pick of the draft.
During his time with the Peterborough Petes, Staal got to know defenseman Zach Bogosian, who is currently ranked second among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
They were teammates for a short time, until Staal went to Pittsburgh for training camp in 2006, made the Penguins, and never went back to juniors. The two caught up for a bit in the Penguins dressing room on Monday.
``He was there his first year and we hung out,'' Staal said. ``It's pretty neat to see him here, and I'm happy for him. I was there not too long ago. It's something special and I hope it is for these guys, too. I know I enjoyed myself. It's great for them to be rewarded for what they've done so far.''
Also on hand Monday with their fathers were: center Steven Stamkos - the likely No. 1 pick in this year's draft - and defensemen Drew Doughty, Tyler Myers, Luke Schenn and Alex Pietrangelo.
The first round of the draft will be held June 20 in Ottawa. The Tampa Bay Lightning own the No. 1 pick.
MISSING MALKIN: Ever since Philadelphia Flyers forward Mike Richards drilled Evgeni Malkin into the boards in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Pittsburgh Penguins' high-flying Russian star hasn't been the same.
Malkin had an MVP-caliber season, especially excelling when Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was out for an extended time with a high ankle sprain. Malkin was just as good at the start of the playoffs. He notched eight goals and nine assists in his first 10 playoff games, including netting the winner in the opener against Philadelphia.
Since then, the 21-year-old center has only one goal and one assist in five games. Pittsburgh has gone 3-2 in those contests.
Malkin said maybe he is a bit tired, and uncomfortable with his role at the point on the power play. Penguins coach Michel Therrien expressed confidence in Malkin, but also needs to see more from the forward, who recorded only one shot in Pittsburgh's 4-0 loss to Detroit in Game 1 of the finals.
``He knows he needs to be better,'' Therrien said Monday. ``We addressed it with him. We want him to be a leader, and he's got to respond as a leader. When we lost Sid through the course of the season, I wanted him to be a leader, and he responded really well. We need him to be a leader for us every game.''