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Three Questions: Jimmy Howard Out, Who’s Returning, and Playoffs in Jeopardy?

January 21st, 2014 at 5:46 PM
By Frank Vajcner

Fun fact of the day: One year ago today, the Detroit Red Wings still had not scored a goal in the regular season.

1. Q: With Jimmy Howard out and Jonas Gustavsson still not 100%, what do the Wings do goaltender-wise?

A: Helene St. James writes that Gustavsson will start Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks, while Petr Mrazek will serve as backup. Gustavsson has been out since Christmas with a groin injury.

As for Howard, he is having issues with the same knee he injured back in December, which is why he left Monday's game against the St. Louis Blues (which debunked initial reports that he had an issue similar to what Roberto Luongo had in the 2007 playoffs).

Howard is expected to be out at least a week, which he will be re-evaluated at that point.

"It is frustrating," Howard said. "You're moving in the right direction and you feel like you're doing all the right things, and you were doing all the right things. It's just bad luck, I guess, is what it comes down to."

Howard is not concerned about having to give up his Olympic spot on Team USA. The 2014 Games are three weeks away.

"First and foremost, is getting the knee healthy for this organization," Howard said.

Gustavsson has been posting career-best numbers (11-3-2, 2.39 GAA, .914 save percentage) so far. Mrazek has also performed well with a 1.60 GAA and one shutout, but hasn't gotten much in terms of goal support.

Speaking of players returning…

2. Q: Is anyone else returning to the lineup?

A: Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson has said that he will be back on the ice on Wednesday, after missing the last few weeks with broken ribs. Beyond him and Gustavsson, no one else is expected back tomorrow,

Daniel Alfredsson (back) did indicate that he could return as early as Friday against the Montreal Canadiens, but St. James writes that that is a longshot.

Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Johan Franzen (concussion), and Joakim Andersson (groin) all remain out indefinitely.

The bottom line is this: it's time for other players to step it up and fast.

3. Q: How much jeopardy is the playoff streak in?

A: Every Red Wings fan knows about the team being in the playoffs for 22 consecutive seasons, but as the losses continue to pile up, the more and more likely the team appears to be flirting with disaster.

Right now, the Wings sit tied for the last Wild Card in the East with the Blue Jackets, but the Blue Jackets hold two key tiebreakers: more regulation/overtime wins (20) and a higher goal differential (+3).

Going back to what I mentioned earlier, it's time to step up and get going, especially since at least two important players may not return until after the Olympics at best. Otherwise, the hole might be too deep to dig out of.

Tags: Detroit, Detroit Red Wings, Hockey, Jimmy Howard, NHL

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