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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Franzenstein terrorizes opposition

DETROIT -- Johan Franzen is not a superstitious man. And that's a good thing because at this moment, Franzen is standing in the crosshairs of superstition.
He is on a scoring streak, a major scoring streak -- something that causes most players to shrug and not tempt the fates by talking about what has happened.
Despite having scored eight goals in the past seven games -- in only one of those games did he not score a goal -- Franzen doesn't mind talking about the secret to his success.
"I know I will get opportunities because of all that ice time and power play (ice time) and playing with Hank (Henrik Zetterberg) and Sammy (Mikael Samuelsson)," said Franzen. "I know I'm going to get opportunities to score."
But how often he'll be able to convert those opportunities into goals … that's something that Franzen will shrug his shoulders about. Who can predict such a thing.
Then again, who could have predicted that Johan Franzen would have put together a goal-scoring streak that no other Red Wing has bettered this season? (Pavel Datsyuk did the same as Franzen with an eight-goal-in-seven-games streak, Nov. 25-Dec. 9. Last year, Zetterberg had a 10-goal-in-seven-games streak, Feb. 7-21.)
"I've never had a streak like this before," said Franzen. "Not since I was young. I'm getting a lot of ice time and playing with good players who keep feeding me the puck."
Throughout the streak, Franzen has been playing on a scoring line with Zetterberg and Samuelsson. During the past five games, Franzen has been on the top power-play unit taking the place of an injured Tomas Holmstrom (abdomen strain) as a net-front fixture.
Franzen's dig-in style earned him the nickname Mule by Steve Yzerman during Franzen's first training camp -- the name that his current teammates most often refer to him by. On Internet bulletin boards, he's known as Franzenstein.
"He's a good player, there's no doubt about that," said Zetterberg. "When he gets the opportunity to play 20 minutes a night and on the power play, he's a big body in front and the puck's just lying there, he's doing a good job."
Franzen, 28, is the ultimate late-bloomer on a team laced with late-bloomers. He wasn't drafted until he was 24, meaning that he was passed over by every NHL team in six entire drafts before the Red Wings selected him 97th overall in 2004.
Franzen didn't reach the NHL until he was 25. His NHL ice time has been like an elevator going up, starting at 12:27 per game as a rookie, then 15:35 as a sophomore, to 17:27 in his third season. His only special-team time at first was on the penalty-kill and now he's on the top power play on the NHL's best team.
"He's been real good around the net," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "Obviously, he's a big, talented kid."
Franzen had good momentum coming into this season, tying for the team lead in goals during the preseason and pacing the Red Wings in shots on goal.
Heading into Wednesday night's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7:30 p.m., FSN), Franzen's 20 goals ranks third on the Red Wings behind Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. He's tied with Holmstrom and Dan Cleary, both of whom are sidelined with injuries.
"You can tell he's playing with a lot of confidence," said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom of Franzen. "He's getting better and better too. He's getting the chance to play with the top two lines where he'll get offensive chances with Hank or Pavel."


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