Wings' Franzen back from flu, looks to shake off slump

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Johan Franzen was back at practice Thursday, free of his flu symptoms and ready to play Friday.

And, no, it doesn't appears he was anywhere close to having the mumps, the latest NHL affliction.

"No, I've been fighting the flu, stomach flu, for the last few weeks," said Franzen, who is set to play against the New York Islanders at Joe Louis Arena. "I haven't been able to get healthy and at the beginning of this week, I felt really awful. I figured I needed a couple of days to get healthy.

"Enough was enough. I just needed to get rid of it."

Whether Franzen's health issues contributed to his recent offensive slump remains to be seen.

He hasn't scored a goal in 12 games (Nov 20 in Winnipeg) and is a team-worst minus-9 in the plus-minus rating category.

"Energy wise, it's been hard for a while," Franzen said. "It bothers me (the plus-minus statistic). Bad luck."

Coach Mike Babcock is hoping Franzen comes back refreshed and energized.

"It was a bit of struggle for him," Babcock said. "He can help us when he's energized. He's had a bug now for a couple of weeks. Hopefully, he's through it.

"I'm aware of all the numbers. Goals for, goals against, chances for, changes against. Are you involved in the chances? Are you involved in the highlight video, on the negative or positive side? We grind it all up so we have a pretty good handle on what guys are doing."

Improved Islanders

The Islanders (21-10-0, 42 points) are second in the Metropolitan Division, safely in the playoff picture, and look like a playoff contender.

"They've always had offensive skill," Babcock said. "(But) they've improved their back end, they've improved in net, they're a good, deep team."

Babcock believes the trade acquisitions of defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk days before the regular season began solidified the Islanders.

Ice chips

Stephen Weiss (shoulder) practiced Thursday and could be ready to play Sunday when the Red Wings host the Avalanche.

Weiss said the question will be how the shoulder reacts to contact in practices the next few days.

Jimmy Howard will start in net against the Islanders.

Islanders at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: This is the first meeting this season between the teams. ... The Islanders are winning despite having the worst penalty kill (71.1 percent). ... C John Tavares (27 points, 12 goals), RW Kyle Okposo (27 points, 20 assists) and G Jaroslav Halak (16-6-0, .917 save percentage) lead the Islanders.