DETROIT – Just when it looked like the end of Detroit’s injury woes were in sight with the return of center Darren Helm Monday night, goaltender Jimmy Howard left in the second period against St. Louis with a lower body injury.
Howard stopped 22 of 25 shots in 30-plus minutes before being replaced by rookie Petr Mrazek at 10:44 of the second period. As Howard skated off the ice during a TV timeout, Detroit’s starting goaltender appeared to be in pain and did not return to the game.
“He got hurt,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “The same knee, I guess.”
Howard initially suffered a sprained left knee in practice at Tampa Bay on Dec. 11, and missed the team’s next eight games.
Wings general manager Ken Holland decxribed Howard's injury as "minor" and that he's day to day, and that he will be re-evaluated Tuesday.
In his place against the Blues, Mrazek stopped 13 of 14 shots as backup Jonas Gustavsson continues to recover from a groin injury.
“It’s a big loss,” Mrazek said of Howard. “He’s No. 1 goaltender and he’s been great for the last couple of games, right now. But we have to think of the positive and play the same game.”
Gustav Nyquist scored Detroit’s lone goal in the 4-1 loss to St. Louis. The forward’s power-play goal with 27 seconds left in the opening period tied the game at one and gave Nyquist his first regular season and second career power-play goal with the Red Wings. Nyquist also notched a power-play goal – which happened to also be the game-winner – against Anaheim in Game 2 of last spring’s Western Conference quarterfinals.
The goal ended Nyquist’s eight-game scoring drought, as he hadn’t netted a goal since Detroit’s 4-3 victory in Florida on Dec. 28.
“It was a real good entry,” Babcock said of Nyquist’s goal. “Riley Sheahan made a play and Nyquist scored. But there wasn’t enough good things for us tonight. There were a few we’ll look at tomorrow. We’ll break down the game and we’ll get ready for the next one.”
The Red Wings had several scoring opportunities throughout the game, including a 5-on-3 advantage, but were unable to overcome the deficit. St. Louis received three unanswered goals from defensemen Barret Jackman, Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester to seal the victory.
“They were better than us,” Babcock said. “I thought we had been playing pretty well, pretty hard and pretty competitive. I didn’t think we were as good tonight whether they were on us better, whether they we couldn’t execute out of our zone. I don’t know what parts us and what parts them. They were on us. They were heavy. We never got anything sustained going.”
Detroit continues to struggle offensively without Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Daniel Alfredsson (back spasms), Jonathan Ericsson (fractured ribs), Johan Franzen (concussion), Joakim Andersson (lower body) in the lineup, as the club was outshot 39-23 in 60 minutes of play and only netted one goal in its 11th home loss.
While the Red Wings have scored two or fewer goals in 53 percent of their games this season (26 of 49), that statistic is almost dead even through last year’s shortened 48-game schedule (26 of 48), when the club extended its playoff streak to 22 straight seasons.
“We've gotta take it one game at a time,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “With the group we have, we've just got to work hard and outcompete the team across from us because we do have a lot of young guys, a lot of young guys filling in, but we can still get it done with this group. For us to be getting wins here, it's not going to be the prettiest, it's going to be the grinding-type, 2-1, 3-2 games, lower-scoring. We've got to be good on specialty teams, defensively, not give up too much."
Detroit is currently tied for ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings with 52 points, and will welcome an Original Six foe, the Chicago Blackhawks, to The Joe on Wednesday night.
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