Red Wings’ Franzen ready to return

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Johan Franzen participates in Red Wings training camp.

Detroit — The anticipation and excitement was apparent in Johan Franzen, who’ll play his first game since suffering a concussion Jan. 6 in Edmonton.

Franzen hasn’t been played in an NHL game since. After Thursday’s morning skate Franzen, 35, was as anxious as a rookie making his debut.

The Red Wings play the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in an exhibition game at Joe Louis Arena.

“It’s a good feelling, I really missed it,” Franzen said. “It’s going to be fun. Hopefully my head can handle it.

“I’m hoping for a good year.”

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A collision with Edmonton’s Rob Klinkhammer caused Franzen to miss the remainder of the regular season and playoffs, and ignite talk of possible retirement.

But, Franzen said, that talk was from others.

“My mindset was always to keep playing,” Franzen said. “I’ve been waiting for this all summer, this moment, and now it’s like the first time. I get to see where I’m at with some real bumps and hits.”

That remains the biggest question — how Franzen will handle the physical play of the NHL.

The intrasquad scrimmages Franzen has been through bear no resemblance to an actual NHL game (even the exhibition season).

But Franzen is optimistic he’ll handle it well.

“Nervous about being hit? No,” Franzen said. “I’m nervous about the game, always a little nervous about the first game.

“I’m not going to be scared to go into the corners or to hit. That’s the last thing I’m thinking about now.

“It’s not going to be a huge difference (from the past). It’s going to be hard playing the first game after being off the whole summer.”

In terms of conditioning, Franzen said he’s further along than he thought, especially after having right ankle surgery in the spring to remove some bone spurs.

“I feel good,” Franzen said. “I was worried coming into camp after having the surgery but I felt real good through camp and I’m happy about that. It’s a lot better than it was before the surgery.

“Hopefully I’ll have a healthy season and it starts tonight.”