The Associated Press reports that Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen will miss his fo
urth consecutive game as the Wings take on the Dallas Stars in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals Saturday afternoon.
Franzen's time on the sidelines began after the forward complained of headaches following Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Evidently, he began experiencing persistent pain early in the Semifinal series between Detroit and Colorado, but kept that to himself until Friday morning. No single incident has been pinpointed as the cause of the headaches.
The team labeled his condition "concussion-like symptoms and he was kept from physical activity until being cleared for off-ice exercises yesterday. Detroit General Manager Ken Holland told the Macomb Daily's Bruce MacLeod that Franzen will not hit the ice until tomorrow at the earliest.
The ruling on his status for Game 5 is based on the preference that he get a couple of day's worth of practice under his belt before returning to the lineup. His status for the remainder of the playoffs "remains in doubt," but as long as he continues to improve, there is no reason to believe he won't be back before the 2007-2008 season is over.
Franzen, a.k.a. "the Mule," was a Conn Smythe favorite going into the Conference Finals, having scored 11 goals through the first two rounds. Nine of those goals came against Colorado alone. Despite missing the last three games, he remains the leader in playoff goals with 12.
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Despite all of that, this stretch of missed games hurts his chances of becoming just the second European to win the playoff MVP. Although his absence from the lineup made many Red Wings fans nervous going in to Game 2, Detroit's depth has overcome the loss of their goals leader. Until last night's Game 4 loss, the Wings were doing fine without him, having pushed Dallas to the brink of elimination through three games.
Fellow Swede Henrik Zetterberg has likely picked up the mantle of Western Conference Conn Smythe favorite at this point with his 19 points tying Sidney Crosby's total. Pavel Datsyuk is not far behind with 18 points. Franzen could, however, take the mantle back with a Finals return and a big series.