Howard out at least a week with sprain
Gustavsson to start against Blackhawks; Babcocks says Ericsson is a maybe
GAA: 2.64 | Sv%: .916
“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.
GAA: 2.39 | Sv%: .914
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.”