Sure, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have to be world-class players, and goaltender Jimmy Howard needs to be stellar, and the defense has to be mistake-proof.

But coach Mike Babcock believes there's another player who is vital to the Red Wings' success the rest of the season.

That would be Johan Franzen, the big forward who seems to draw the most Red Wings fans' frustration and consternation because of his inconsistency.

But when Franzen is right and at the top of his game, which he largely was Friday in a crucial, 3-2 overtime victory over Colorado, the Red Wings are a deeper, better team.

"Mule was fantastic in the middle," said Babcock, talking about Friday's move of Franzen to center. "I want Mule to be dominant. I've said it before, Mule is the X-factor on this team. He's a good player, and we need him to be playing at the highest level possible."

Franzen centered a line with Valtteri Filppula and Gustav Nyquist which produced one goal (Nyquist). Franzen also assisted on Pavel Datsyuk's power-play goal in the first period.

Franzen shut down Colorado's Matt Duchene in a head-to-head battle most of the game and tied Kyle Quincey with a team-high four hits in over 16 minutes of ice time.

"That's a good thing," said Franzen, when told Babcock considers him the team's X-factor. "It would be bad if he didn't think I was one. I'm happy about that.

"I'm trying as hard as I can. It was a fun game to play (Friday). Try something new and get a little boost maybe."

The move to center isn't new. Franzen has played there infrequently in the past. On occasion, it does seem to provide Franzen with a spark.

"It's fun, you're a little more involved in the game, you get to more pucks and there's more skating," Franzen said. "When you play wing (which Franzen normally does), you have a designated spot, you're going back and forth up and down. As a center you can use a little more freedom and try to find openings. There's a lot more skating and less stopping."