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Return of "The Mule" big so far

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Since Johan Franzen has returned from his knee injury, the Red Wings have played 7 games and wrangled a record of 4-1-2, picking up a total of 10 of 14 possible points.

Perhaps more importantly, the offense has picked and scored five goals in two straight games after not scoring more than 4 since the 7-4 win over Anaheim in mid November.

After the Franzen's return, the Wings goals per game numbers have gone from 2.58 goals to 2.69. Doesn't sound like much right? Considering how poor the scoring effort had been all season, it's a considerable gain. The shots on goal per game have gone from 32. 6 to 33 per, a slight increase but looking at the shot charts, the middle of the ice has seemingly opened up for the Wings. Opening the middle of the ice is important for Detroit in terms of setting up their once trademark passing plays that have been a rare occasion this season.

The power play has reached a respectable 19.4%, 8th in the league, and has scored at least one goal in 6 of the 7 games and 2 goals on the advantage twice. In short, he has added yet another weapon on the power play and with his net-front presence, he compliments Tomas Holmstrom pretty well.

Franzen alone has scored 5 (4 G, 1 A) in the 7 games since he's been back and has registered about 4 shots on goal per game. Franzen also provides a boost to his linemates, Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk. With opposing differences having to worry about yet another capable scorer on the ice, Datsyuk has had an exceptional couple of games since. Datsyuk's tallied 9 points (4 G, 5 A) and has really started to show his passing and puck control in those games.

But perhaps it's not all The Mule carrying the workload. Detroit finally has a full line-up and no longer need to call on Todd Bertuzzi or Jason Williams to be primary scorers but can now allow them to work their roles as secondary scorers. Henrik Zetterberg's now able to center the second line instead of playing wing with Datsyuk. That opens up the second line to benefit from Zetterberg's playmaking abilities.

I'm not trying to insinuate that Franzen's the only factor in this recent surge by any means but rather the psychological gain that the team around him has gotten knowing that yet another big name is back in the line-up and another 30 goal scorer on the ice each night.