— Petr Mrazek understands.

The confident 22-year-old goalie from the Czech Republic has looked good for the Red Wings in 11 NHL games, compiling a 1.80 goals against average and .926 save percentage.

But with Jimmy Howard playing all three periods Thursday and Mike Babcock saying Friday Jonas Gustavsson would start today against the Bruins and play three periods, the extent to which the Red Wings are set in the NHL at the position seems clear.

"I have one more year at entry level," he said, of his contract. "So, if I go down (to Grand Rapids) I will just vow to try to work hard.

"I'm really happy that Detroit gave me the contract for next year and they showed me that I can be here, maybe, next year. So I'm going to try to work there, and if I will get any chance to get here, that's good for me."

But Mrazek is good, and his coach knows it.

"Mrazek's knocking on the door, here, he wants to play too," Mike Babcock said. "But there's not room for three guys."

After listing Mrazek's attributes, including his assuredness, ability to win and "playing like a big man," even though he is not, Babcock put it simply, "He's an NHL goalie."

For his part, Mrazek said he was not surprised the Red Wings signed Gustavsson to a new contract in the offseason, and that he is still willing to be patient.

"Everyone wants to be number one, and if I'm going to get a chance to play, I'm going to try to be the best and play as many games as I can, here, this year," he said.

"I will try to be focused, be strong in the AHL and take a good step into the NHL, when I get a chance."

Looking forward

Babcock tersely addressed two roster issues, involving Darren Helm and Daniel Alfredsson.

Helm, who took a stick to the face, hard, in the exhibition opener against the Penguins, left practice early for a second consecutive day. His announced injuries are a broken nose and a cut, all of which left him with a considerable shiner.

"Yeah, we're just getting him checked out to see what's going on there," Babcock said.

Alfredsson hoped to make the roster this year, and Pavel Datsyuk's shoulder injury makes Alfredsson's presence even more desireable.

But at age 41, after 444 goals and 1,157 points in the NHL and significant international play, the 18-year veteran's back apparently has not cooperated.

Has he talked to Alfredsson, Babcock was asked.

The coach smiled a broad smile that sometimes indicates his intention to be coy.

"Yeah, I saw Alfie yesterday, had a nice talk with him," Babcock said.

"Kids are good. Everything's good."

Strong review

Howard has had a good chance to assess some of the Red Wings young defenseman. Like others, he has been impressed by the Wings' young defensemen, especially Xavier Ouellet.

"I think excellent job out of all of them, I think. Ouellet as looked the best," Howard said. "He just looks ready.

"He's very calm with the puck. He's making the plays that are given to him. He's not trying to force anything. He's gritty. He gets into the corner. He's not going to back down, and you know he's not the biggest guy out there.

"It's fun to see."

Bruins vs. Red Wings

Faceoff: 7 tonight, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: None.

Outlook: With both teams skating younger players on preseason rosters, the competitive edge of the Stanley Cup playoff series five months ago, in which the Bruins eliminated the Red Wings in five games, will be a distant memory. Jonas Gustavsson starts in goal for the Wings, and the Bruins announced one of the several big, tough guys, Milan Lucic, will make the trip to Detroit.