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Wings' Mrazek gets nod over Howard tonight

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Petr Mrazek

Detroit – It'll be Petr Mrazek back in net Tuesday night when the Red Wings host Ottawa.

Mrazek is coming off a dismal start Sunday against the Islanders, allowing four goals on 11 shots in a 5-4 loss.

But coach Mike Babcock, as he did the week before while going back to Jimmy Howard after consecutive good starts capped by a clunker, decided to use the same logic while letting Mrazek try to play through it.

"Petr has done a good job for us, didn't do as good a job against the Islanders, and I'll give him the same opportunity," Babcock said. "Obviously one of these guys have to grab it. We're in the winning business. It's (Tuesday) a huge game for us. It's exciting to have the opportunity and we'll give Pete the opportunity."

Howard stopped 14 of 15 shots against the Islanders in relief of Mrazek. Howard took the news of backing up Mrazek against the Senators in stride.

"It's his (Babcock's) decision," Howard said. "He feels that Petr going tonight is the right thing and I know when my number is called, I'll be ready."

Howard called his recent slump "just a minor roadblock."

He added: "The only thing I can control is myself and coming in here and putting in the work, have a positive attitude, and supporting all the guys.

"Coach Babcock makes the decisions."

Mrazek got the news from goaltending coach Jim Bedard late Monday he'd be starting.

"When you have a game like that against the Islanders, it's on the coaches (as to) who will play," Mrazek said. "I'm happy I have the chance to go out there.

"You have to stay positive all the time, whether you have a good game or bad game. It's over at the end of the game and you just start thinking about the new day and game."

As for the possitiblity of seizing the starting job with the playoffs just two weeks away, Mrazek isn't thinking in those terms.

"For me, the opportunity to come back after Sunday, that's huge for me," Mrazek said. "I don't think about what happened. I just worry about one game and we'll think about the next one (afterward)."

Gustavsson on mend

Jonas Gustavsson, recuperating from concussion symptoms suffered March 8, is increasing his workload during practice and could be cleared soon.

Gustavsson did most of his work after Tuesday's morning skate, facing shots from players not in the lineup.

"I'm facing shots now and staying ready," Gustavsson said. "I feel good. I haven't done the final (concussion) test. I feel like right now it's just a matter of me staying ready and being ready when they need me."

Birthday wishes for Mr. Hockey

Gordie Howe celebrated his 87th birthday Tuesday, and his former linemate, Ted Lindsay, wished him a happy birthday.

"I would like to wish Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, the greatest hockey player to ever play the game, a very Happy 87th Birthday," Lindsay said in a statement released by Red Wings officials. "No one to this day can play the game with the same combination of toughness and skill that Gordie displayed for 25 years in a Red Wings uniform.

"He was a great teammate and I'm thrilled at the progress he's made in his recovery. I wish him all the best as he continues his battle. Happy Birthday, Gordie!"

Howe suffered a serious stroke and had some other health concerns in the past year.

Ice chips

Riley Sheahan (upper body) will return to the Red Wings' lineup after missing the last two games.

... Erik Cole (upper body) will miss his fourth consecutive game, but is likely to return later this week.

... Babcock will leave the team Wednesday, traveling to Canada for the funeral of his father, Michael Babcock Sr., who passed away Saturday night at the age of 78.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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