Babcock says Wings' goalie situation remains clouded

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Montreal — The Red Wings are headed into the playoffs but who the starting goaltending will be is anyone's guess.

Coach Mike Babcock couldn't name the starter after Thursday's 4-3 overtime loss to Montreal after Jimmy Howard allowed three poor goals in Babcock's mind.

"They can't go in, period," said Babcock, who felt his team otherwise played a strong game against the Canadiens. "It's the National Hockey League. They can't go in."

Howard and Petr Mrazek have both had opportunities to take a firm hold of the starting job in the last several weeks, but neither has been able to grasp it.

Howard had won starts against Minnesota on Saturday and Carolina on Tuesday, but took a step back with the loss to the Canadiens, while stopping 22 of 26 shots.

Mrazek is winless in his last three decisions (0-2-1) and been pulled in the other.

Babcock would like to see stability in the position, and soon.

"No question," said Babcock, who added he'll think about who will start Saturday in Carolina, and go from there. "I'm going to have a beer and think about that.

"How about that?"

On the winning goal, Lars Eller's shot from a sharp angle eluded Howard.

"I saw the Montreal guy coming hard on the outside and I was thinking he was going to throw it across," Howard said. "In that case, you have to stick with the shooter."

Strange mood

Admittedly it was a strange scene in the Red Wings locker room, with plenty of smiles and relief, despite a tough overtime loss to the division leaders.

But having made the playoffs despite losing, the Red Wings will more than thrilled securing a 24th consecutive playoff berth.

"Ultimately we got in," Howard said. "Everyone is real happy and proud. Now we just play for seeding and it takes a little bit of pressure off."

Captain Henrik Zetterberg admitted he took a glance at the scoreboard at Bell Centre to see how Ottawa (the Senators won) and Boston (the Bruins' 4-2 loss in Florida clinched the playoffs for the Red Wings) were doing.

"Probably for the first time I was scoreboard watching," Zetterberg said. "We came into the room and we put on the television. There were 30 seconds left (in the Boston game). It was a good feeling (when the Bruins lost)."

Said Niklas Kronwall: "It was definitely a weird scenario but we battled hard in our game. We found a way to get a big point and eventually that got us in."

Resting people?

Babcock wasn't sure what he'd do, yet, for Saturday's game in Carolina.

The Red Wings need one point — at least a regulation tie — to clinch third place and avoid a wild-card position (and a possible match-up with the No. 1 seed New York Rangers).

Babcock said Pavel Datsyuk has been playing hurt, and Justin Abdelkader (hand) missed his third consecutive game Thursday. Tomas Jurco (upper body) missed his fifth consecutive game, although Jurco did participate in the morning skate.

Babcock ruled out Johan Franzen (concussion), who hasn't played since Jan. 6, and Erik Cole (spinal cord contusion) was ruled out for the season earlier in the week.

"I'm hoping a couple of days off for Pavel, he'll feel like himself and we get Abby back, that would really help," Babcock said. "Obviously we're not getting the Mule (Franzen) back or Cole, but even with Jurco back, we're a better team.

"We'll figure that out (who'll play and who'll Babcock rest), maybe we'll bring up some kids. But we need some points. I don't know what the draw is, obviously there's so much left out there."

If the Red Wings lose in regulation and Ottawa wins in regulation, Ottawa would jump into third place.