Wings' duo hope to head to Vancouver
Franzen wants to make team; Kronwall wants to keep roster spot
Both Red Wings veterans have battled leg injuries for much of the season. Franzen has played in the last two games after missing 55 games with a torn ACL that required surgery. Kronwall, who has missed a total of 34 games with a left knee sprain, is still day-to-day since tweaking the injury in San Jose on Feb. 2.
Because of Franzen’s early season injury, he did not make Sweden’s 23-man roster when it was announced in January. But three players – Kronwall, Tomas Holmstrom (day-to-day) and former NHL star Peter Forsberg – are question marks for Sweden’s final roster. Though Holmstrom is less likely to miss the Games then the others.
Franzen, who returned to the Wings’ lineup on Tuesday in St. Louis, said he has had talks with Sweden coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson about his Olympic status.
“I talked to him after the first game against St. Louis, told him I felt good,” Franzen said. “I tried to talk to him (Thursday) after the game, but they were in the air, so I sent him a text message telling him I was ready to go.”
Kronwall said that if he can play in the Wings final game before the Olympic break – Saturday against the Ottawa Senators at Joe Louis Arena – and he doesn’t experience any setbacks, he doesn’t see why he wouldn’t join his countrymen in Vancouver next week.
“That would be huge,” said Kronwall, of playing in his second Olympic Games. “It feels like I’ve had my time of not playing, to go another two weeks without playing would be tough, but right now I don’t think about that, right now I’m just thinking about getting back to playing.”
Olympic teams have until Monday to lock in on their rosters.
Franzen said that playing in the Olympics would help him get back into game-shape for the Wings’ final 21 regular-season games.
“It would be great for me to play in the Olympics, play against the best players, get the tempo up even more,” he said. “It would be great for me.”
Though he has only played in five games this season, Franzen seems to still have his scoring touch. He opened the scoring in Thursday’s 3-2 shootout loss to San Jose when he fired a wrist shot passed Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
Franzen’s ice-time and energy has impressed Wings coach Mike Babcock.
“Well, I thought the Mule was great,” Babcock said. “It goes to show you what a dimension he brings to our team. We’re a way different team with him. He’s such a big guy, he can skate, he can handle the puck, be physical. We just need him to continue to shoot the puck into the net for us. He’s way better than I expected.”
For Kronwall, it seems the only thing holding him back from a roster spot with Sweden is his health. The 29-year-old returned from his knee sprain for five games, only to miss the last four. He had been awaiting a new leg brace and he skated in Friday’s practice.
“It’s always frustrating when you’re not in the lineup,” he said. “But these last few days have been progressing pretty good, and today I felt good out there, so hopefully it will stay the same tomorrow morning and I’ll be good to go.”
However, Babcock said he has to talk to the trainers before he inserts Kronwall into Saturday’s lineup.
“I don’t know if he’s back yet, because I haven’t talked to the trainers,” Babcock said. “Last time he skated, the next day he couldn’t move. So we’ll see what happens there, and then we will decide.”
Nicklas Lidstrom hopes Franzen and Kronwall will be joining Henrik Zetterberg, Holmstrom and himself in Vancouver. He said that Kronwall looked good in practice Friday, and that Franzen has surprised the Swedish team with his quick recovery.
“They weren’t sure how (Franzen) would do coming back from his injury,” Lidstrom said, pointing out that Sweden officials have been keeping close tabs on both players. “But he’s been looking real solid the last two games he’s played in, so we’ll have to wait and see over the weekend to see what happens.”
Whether they make it to Vancouver or not, both players will have a profound impact on the Wings as they make a push for the playoffs after the break. Franzen said that in Thursday’s game, the Wings showed they are still capable of Stanley Cup contention.
“A lot of guys have been playing a lot of hockey, a lot of tired legs out there, so this break is coming at a good time,” Franzen said. “When everyone’s healthy and come back from this break, we can put together a real strong finish of the season.”