DETROIT – Jonas Gustavsson’s groin injury has opened a door for rookie Petr Mrazek, who more than likely will be on the opening night roster when the Red Wings host the Buffalo Sabres a week from Wednesday.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for me to get a chance,” Mrazek said. “We’ll see how the season starts and be there for the home opener probably. I’m really excited for that.”
Since he was a teenager, rookie goalie Petr Mrazek has put together an impressive resume, highlighted by last spring’s Calder Cup championship and recognition as the best goaltender in the 2012 World Junior Championships. Mrazek earned two starts with the Red Wings last February. The 21-year-old from Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, posted a 1-1-0 record, allowing just four goals on 51 shots.
On Wednesday, Mrazek will get his first preseason start for the Wings when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Joe Louis Arena. He’s allowed one goal in two preseason appearances this month.
Coach Mike Babcock said Gustavsson’s injury is a break for Mrazek, but the coach warns that nothing is being given to the young goalie, he’s earned his playing time.
“As a rookie you won the Calder Cup and things are good,” Babcock said. “He gets a chance, so do good with what you get and see what happens.
“He wins. That’s it. He’s got to get stronger and as he gets stronger he’ll have better rebound control and better push. Those are all just part of growing up. The more time in pro hockey you settle down. I think he’s a real competitor and has a bright future.”
Mrazek led all AHL goalies in wins (15) and saves (658) in the Calder Cup playoffs, but it was his time spent in Detroit’s locker room last season that has him prepare for beginning the season in the NHL.
“Every start I had last year I learned a lot, how to prepare for every game and how you have to be on the ice, how a player’s shooting and the power play so it all was a learning experience,” Mrazek said. “I think it’s a lot different here than in Grand Rapids. Guys are smarter, power play is better so you have to be smarter too and compete hard.”
For Gustavsson, the groin injury is frustrating, especially since he started last season with the same type of injury in his first year in the organization. Gustavsson underwent an MRI and is day to day, though he could miss up to a month before he’s ready to return to the ice.
“With groins, especially for a goalie, you got to be 100 percent,” Gustavsson said. “If I was a defenseman or forward it would be something else because you don't put as much pressure on it. That's the tough part, to know exactly how long that's going to take. That's why I can't give you a number or days or weeks I'll be back. I'm just going to be positive and do everything I can to make it heal as quick as possible.
“I'm just going to follow the medical staff's program and maybe go a little more, a little harder every day. As long as it's going in right direction, it's good.”
ALFIE UPDATE: Babcock said he expects that Daniel Alfredsson will make his home debut for the Red Wings in Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Penguins.
“He’s got to play eventually here, like anything, I’d like to get him going,” Babcock said, referring to Alfredsson. “I’d like to play him (Wednesday) and then on Friday (vs. Toronto) and get going from there.”
Alfredsson played in the Wings’ second preseason game, a 2-0 loss at Chicago that Franzen sit out with a sore hip flexor. So it’s imperative, Babcock said, that the second line begins to work on creating chemistry prior to the season-opener next Wednesday.
“They’ve got to get to work and get playing. That’s what training camp is for,” Babcock said. “You have to start feeling good and be going in at a high level and if you do that you have a better chance of getting started on time.”
Alfredsson was less alarmed, and said he’ll play against the Pens if he feels good.
“We have more than a week here to get used to each other. There’s still plenty of time,” he said. “Everyone would love to be healthy all of training camp and go full all the time, but at the same time this is the time where you have to make sure if you do have something to look after it, because once the season starts there’s no time.
“I’m happy with how I feel right now, but you never want to jinx yourself and say you feel great so we’ll see how it feels this afternoon. This was the first time I’ve really pushed myself hard in a while.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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