DETROIT – On the day that he received his first call-up to the NHL, Red Wings goalie prospect Petr Mrazek was named the Player of the Week in the American Hockey League.
The Red Wings called up Mrazek on the same day that they reassigned Tom McCollum to the club’s minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids.
Mrazek stopped 53 of 54 shots in two games last week as Grand Rapids extended its lead atop the Midwest Division with a 5-1 win at Hamilton on Friday followed by a 1-0 home victory over Abbotsford on Saturday.
Before Saturday’s win, Mrazek’s first career shutout as a pro, the 20-year-old Czech star received some advice from Chris Osgood, the Red Wings’ goalie development coach.
“I felt pretty good before the game and I talked with Ozzie before the game and he said I have to be a little more aggressive in the net so I had to be and it happened,” Mrazek said. “It was a great night for us.”
A fifth-round draft pick in 2010, Mrazek began last week by representing the Griffins and earning the win in net for the Western Conference during last Monday’s AHL All-Star Game.
This season, he owns a 16-7-1 record and is second among AHL rookies with a 2.26 goals-against average, and is third with a .916 save percentage. Mrazek is just the third Griffins’ player to receive the AHL award in the past four seasons, and second in the last three weeks. Forward Joakim Andersson earned league honors on Jan. 20.
With Jonas Gustavsson (groin) and Joey MacDonald (back) not available and the Wings facing a week filled with four games – including three in four days at week’s end – coach Mike Babcock said he feels like Jimmy Howard needs a rest.
“I felt the other night in Columbus – it’s not like I got options – but I felt like I shouldn’t have started Howie,” Babcock said. “So eventually we got to give Howie a breather. He can’t play every single night. Neither one of the goalies on the shelf appears to be coming back anytime soon, so we got to do something about that. This kid’s played great.”
Having played in front of him in Grand Rapids, defenseman Brendan Smith has seen what Mrazek can bring to the Wings.
“He’s such a quick goalie. He gets side to side really quickly and he’s a competitor, which I like,” Smith said. “He wants to play well all of the time and he competes well in practice. In today’s game, the puck moves so quickly, you’ve got to get side to side, and I think he does a really good job of doing that.”
Babcock said that Howard will start his ninth straight game when the Wings host the Calgary Flames at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday night. However, the Wings’ coach was non-committal as to when the rookie may make his NHL debut.
“I don't know what I'm going to do,” Babcock said. “You can ask me the same questions tomorrow; I’m not answering them today because I don’t know.”
The Wings also called forward Tomas Tatar on Monday. The speedy prospect practiced on a forward line with Pavel Datysuk and Valtteri Filppula on Monday, though it’s expected that Tatar will play a role with the bottom six forwards against the Flames.
“I don’t know what he’s going to do tomorrow,” Babcock said. “He’s got some ability, he’s scored some goals. He’s fearless. Maybe he can help us.”
Tatar leads with the Griffins with 19 goals and is second in points with 39.
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