Wings goalie Howard reads Blackhawks like a book

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) makes a save on a shot by Brad Richards (91) as Patrick Sharp (10) watches during the second period.

Chicago — Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said he relied on previous meetings with the Blackhawks as he zoned in for the shootout.

The Wings won, 3-2, at Chicago on Wednesday night, giving Howard his first shootout victory in eight attempts this season. The Wings are now 3-8.

Certainly, Howard enjoyed a sense of relief, a burden lifted, but he said familiarity with the Blackhawks proved essential in helping the Wings to their first road win of a six-game stretch. He said he has filed away a few mental notes on their shooters and tendencies.

"To be honest with you, facing Chicago in a shootout is probably, I hate to say it, it's not easy, but it's easier because we've seen them so much playing in the West for so many years. I'm still learning a lot of guys in the East. Knowing the majority of their moves, that helps."

Howard and the Wings weathered twice taking the lead and then giving it up right away. They had to come from behind in the shootout to win.

"They're a good hockey club," Howard said. "They're extremely skilled, they're extremely fast, and they have a lot of talented players on that team. The only thing that matters is we found a way to get two points."

Niklas Kronwall said Howard is worthy of finally getting that rare shootout victory.

"He deserved it big time," Kronwall said. "He came up big for us in the game, but that's something he's been doing for us all year. Even though the shootout part of it maybe hasn't been as perfect, but he's come up huge for us and stolen games for us. It was great to see him get one for us tonight."

Howard said there has been a level of frustration the last few games after a shootout loss to Winnipeg and then a shutout loss to Montreal on Monday. This is the first of a six-game road stretch for the Red Wings that will cover the next 11 days.

"Starting off the road trip here with two points is a good feeling," Howard said. "We can enjoy it here for a couple days and get ready for Dallas. This road trip's going to get a lot harder."

He is coming off a groin injury and said he's getting stronger.

"I'm getting there I think," he said. "I still feel like my game legs are coming. I definitely feel like I'm on the right track."

Pulkkinen gets another chance

Forward Teemu Pulkkinen's next opportunity to work his way back into the Red Wings fold and become an everyday player is now.

He embarked on that playing on one of the top two lines with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader in Wednesday's game at Chicago.

Tomas Jurco was a healthy scratch.

Pulkkinen, known for his hard right-handed shot, played six games in Detroit this year before being sent to Grand Rapids last month after scoring his first goal.

Against the Blackhawks, he had four shots on goal.

The Red Wings hope Pulkkinen can give them the type of offensive boost they need, particularly as they face a tough, six-game road stretch. Pulkkinen leads the AHL in scoring with 57 points (30 goals) in 44 games.

"He's obviously an unbelievable player everyplace he's played," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said before the game. "There's been a whole bunch of those guys, and now you've got to do it in the NHL."

By playing with Zetterberg and Abdelkader, the objective is for Pulkkinen to have the freedom to do what he does best.

"We just want (Pulkkinen) to shoot the puck," Babcock said. "What he does really well, he's got a heavy stick, he wins puck battles, he's on the puck, he's competitive. He's got a lot to learn, but everybody who arrives in this league has a lot to learn."

Meanwhile, Babcock said the time is now for Abdelkader to take his game to another level. Abdelkader had 12 goals and 16 assists entering Wednesday.

"He's really come (far), but he's got to get going now," Babcock said. "It's like anything — there are ebbs and flows during the year. We need him to be on fire here this next little while with six games on the road, we need him to be a factor."

Wings search for power

Babcock was not interested in hearing praise heaped on the Red Wings power play in recent weeks.

"We couldn't even get in the zone last game," Babcock said, referring to Monday's 2-0 loss to Montreal. "We've got a bunch of good players, they work hard and they like scoring. So like most players, if you can show them a way that's going to help them score, they want to do it.

"The league is hard to score in. Not everyone scores like Chicago and Tampa, and we're not one of those teams. We've got to find a way to take care of our special teams."

Hossa glides, says Babcock

Marian Hossa, 36, will have a long career, Babcock said, because of his skating prowess.

Hossa, who also played for the Red Wings, has 17 goals.

"He's an elite skater, always has been," Babcock said. "I think guys like Hoss can play longer because they're such great skaters than the guys who aren't great skaters. He glides, he's effortless, he's a worker, he's a big man. He doesn't get dinged a whole bunch.

"Nothing Hoss does surprises me. He's one of the best players in the world. He just flat out knows how to play with or without the puck. Anybody who has him would be lucky to have him."

The Wings were 0-1 on the power play against the Blackhawks.