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Wings' Howard is heating up

Red Wings' goalie is 9-3-5 all-time when facing 40 or more shots per game

Friday, 01.17.2014 / 4:09 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Wings\' Howard is heating up

Red Wings Gustav Nyquist (14) and Petr Mrazek congratulate goalie Jimmy Howard after he made 44 saves in Detroit's 3-1 win at Los Angeles last Saturday night. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – What is it about Jimmy Howard when he faces an extraordinarily heavy arsenal of shots in a game?

Fortunately, it hasn’t happened all that much in his career. The Red Wings’ goaltender now has a 9-3-5 all-time record – 2-2-1 this season – when opponents have fired 40-plus shots at him like the New York Rangers did Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Despite Howard’s 47-save effort, the Wing lost 1-0 to the Rangers as their neminder, Henrik Lundqvist, made 38 stops.

“I know he’s playing well now,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said of Howard. “Ever since the Dallas game he’s kind of had it going. He struggled on a couple in San Jose but he’s played real well and the bottom line is for us to have success with the group we have we need him to be on top of his game.”

Although he’s played through a sore hip flexor lately, Howard has produced a 2-2-1 mark with a 1.91 goals-against average and .952 save percentage in five starts this month. In his previous 22 games, Howard struggled to a 6-9-7 record with a 2.76 GAA and .906 save percentage.

With numerous injuries currently plaguing the Red Wings’ roster, it’s easily understandable why Howard has been busier this month. He is facing nearly nine more shots per game this month, which is better than seeing nine less, Howard said.

“Those are the hardest games you can play in because you’re sitting back there and all of a sudden you’re trying not to become a spectator,” said Howard, who was named to USA Hockey’s Olympic roster this month. “When you see that many saves people usually say, ‘Well, you only saw 14 or 15 shots on the night.’ Well, those are usually the hardest.”

Captain Henrik Zetterberg didn’t know what to make of Howard’s increase work load when he was asked about it following Friday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena.

“Maybe he likes to see more shots,” Zetterberg said, laughing. “We’re always trying to get less shots against us but maybe we shouldn’t.”

Howard has a stellar career track record, compiling three straight 35-win seasons for the Red Wings, who know they need him if they are to stretch their franchise playoff streak to 23 straight seasons this spring.

“He’s been a world-class goalie for us for a number of years,” Babcock said. “He had a tough first half but he’s going now and we need to ride him.”

The Red Wings will definitely need Howard to be at his best in the next week with a foursome of playoff-contenders – the Kings, Blues, Blackhawks and Canadiens – coming to town in the next seven days. But Howard says he’s up for the challenge, beginning Saturday when he’ll start against the Kings’ Jonathan Quick.

“To me it doesn’t matter who is playing on the other end,” said Howard, who made 44 saves in a 3-1 win at Los Angeles last Saturday. “You always want to out-battle him and out-compete him to get your team a W. Tomorrow is another great shot here with Quicky coming to town; he’s a great goalie and it’s going to take another great effort from all of us.”

While Howard downplayed Saturday’s head-to-head match up with his Olympic teammate, Zetterberg believes there’s something to it.

“You always want to be better than the guy across from you and for Howie he is a good goalie and I think he’s playing real well,” the Wings’ captain said. “Important games are obviously easy to get up for and Howie seems that he plays better when a lot of stuff is on the line.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38

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