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Howard out at least a week with sprain

Gustavsson to start against Blackhawks; Babcocks says Ericsson is a maybe

Tuesday, 01.21.2014 / 3:12 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - DetroitRedWings.com
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Howard out at least a week with sprain

Jimmy Howard
Goalie  - DET
Record: 9-12-8
GAA: 2.64 | Sv%: .916
DETROIT – For the second time this season, the Red Wings will be without Jimmy Howard for a period of time after the starting goaltender re-injured the left knee, which forced him to miss eight games last month.

“There’s fluid back on the knee. Just hopefully it gets out of there fast,” said Howard, who was hurt during Monday’s 4-1 loss to St. Louis.

Howard sprained the MCL toward the end of practice in Tampa on Dec. 11, though he doesn’t think injury is as bad was the first one.

“As the game went on in the second period it just got stiffer and stiffer,” Howard said. “Hoping short term.”

Howard, who will be re-evaluated in a week, re-joins the long list of Wings’ veterans already sidelined by injuries.

“It is frustrating,” he said. “You’re moving in the right direction, you feel you’re doing all the right things and we were doing all the right things. It’s just bad luck, I guess.”

Coach Mike Babcock indicated that backup Jonas Gustavsson, who has missed the last nine games with a sore groin, will get the start Wednesday when the Red Wings host the Chicago Blackhawks at Joe Louis Arena.

While Howard is definitely frustrated by the knee problem, he can’t let it get him down.

“You just can’t let it, simple as that,” Howard said. “Have to have positive mind frame, do the work in the trainers’ room, hope for the best and get back out there as soon as you can.”

The Red Wings have leaned a lot on Gustavsson this season, and the veteran backup has responded to the challenge, producing a 11-3-2 record with a 2.39 goals-against average and .914 winning percentage when healthy.

“We’d like to lean on him for sure,” Babcock said. “We’d like him to stay healthy so we can do that. That’s been the biggest thing with him, not with his play; it’s been whether he’s healthy enough to play.”

Gustavsson confirmed that the groin, which has been an issue for him in the past, is completed healed this time, and he’s ready to get back into the lineup.

Jonas Gustavsson
Goalie  - DET
Record: 11-3-2
GAA: 2.39 | Sv%: .914
“When I’m on the ice I’m not worried about it. If you’re worrying about getting injured then you’re not going to be do what you’re supposed to out there,” he said. “When it’s all healed it’s supposed to be good and no high risk of reinjuring it when you come back. Groins are always difficult. If we had the answers to fix them we wouldn’t be in this problem. You just have to try and do you best, take care of your body. That’s all you can do.”

Wednesday will be just the second career start for Gustavsson against the Blackhawks, who lead the league with 3.51 goals per game, and have two players – Patrick Kane (56 points) and Patrick Sharp (50) – among the league’s top 10 scorers.

“They’re one of the better teams in the league and they’ve shown that the last few years,” said Gustavsson, who has a 4.43 GAA in two career games against Chicago. “They have a lot of skill. They have some players that can shoot and score. As a goalie you have to be aware of everyone on the ice and where they are at all times. That’s the fun part too. You want to compete against the best guys and they have a lot of them on that team.”

It’s possible that the Red Wings might see the return of defenseman Jonathan Ericsson to the lineup against the Blackhawks. Ericsson fractured a few ribs right before the Christmas break, forcing him to miss the last 10 games, which happens to be the same number of contests he missed earlier in the season after he suffered a separated shoulder in Phoenix on Oct. 19.

While Ericsson believes he’s playing Wednesday, Babcock wasn’t so sure, saying, “There’s a chance Jonathan Ericsson could play.”

Either way, Ericsson said he’ll be ready for the Blackhawks.

“Looking at the schedule it doesn’t really matter who I’m coming in against they’re all top teams right now,” said Ericsson, whose plus-9 rating is second-best on the team. “It’s going to be a good thing. I really have to be on my toes tomorrow. It’s challenging to play those guys. Always fun to play against them. We have to play our best game in order to win.”

The Red Wings must continue to try and claw out victories with a depleted lineup sans four of their top eight scorers as Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Daniel Alfredsson (back spasms), Johan Franzen (concussion) and Joakim Andersson (lower body) are still out. However, there’s a small chance that Alfredsson, who has missed six of the last nine games, could return for Friday’s home game against Montreal.

“We’ll see,” said Alfredsson, who has 11 goals and 30 points in 38 games. “Taking it day by day and seeing how it progresses. … Today was encouraging.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80