'I can't wait': Mrazek gets nod over Howard

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Jimmy Howard, left, and Petr Mrazek

Detroit – Petr Mrazek will start Game 1 for the Red Wings when they begin the Eastern Conference playoffs Thursday night.

Coach Mike Babcock said after Monday's practice that Mrazek will be in net when Detroit travels to Tampa Bay for the 7:30 p.m. start. Jimmy Howard will be the backup.

"I just watch the guys and I thought that (Mrazek starting) gave us the best way to start the series," Babcock said.

Babcock made the decision, he said, after Saturday's 2-0 shutout victory for Mrazek over Carolina.

"I'm excited, it's my first playoff game in the NHL, I can't wait," Mrazek said. "I'll do my best."

Mrazek, 23, and many of the present Red Wings were on the Grand Rapids Griffins' Calder Cup-winning team that defeated many of the current Tampa Bay Lightning players that were then in Syracuse and lost to GR in the 2013 AHL finals.

This is one big level up, though.

"It's a huge chance," Mrazek said. "It's the same chance when I was in Grand Rapids in my first year (as a pro). This is a new challenge for me."

In his last start against Tampa Bay, which was March 28, Mrazek shut out the Lightning 4-0.

Mrazek was 16-9-2 with a 2.38 goals-against average and .918 save percentage with three shutouts this season. Howard was 23-13-11 with 2.44 GAA, .910 save percentage and two shutotuts.

"It's about the Detroit Red Wings right now," Babcock said. "The individual time of year is all over. It's all about the team and let's get ready to play."

Personnel moves

Babcock said defenseman Alexey Marchenko and forward Landon Ferraro both will remain in the lineup. Who is out, said Babcock, will be worked out in the next few days before Game 1.

... Justin Abdelkader (hand) practiced briefly Monday but remains unsure about whether he'll be able to play Game 1.

Abdelkader missed the last four games of the regular season.

"I've progressed and it feels better," Abdelkader said. "I'm not ruling out Thursday.

"With any kid of injury it's not going to go from 1 to 10 right away. There are numbers in between. It feels better, so we'll see how it progresses. We have three more days, which is nice."

... Darren Helm didn't practice Monday because he was sick, said Babcock.

RED WINGS-LIGHTNING SCHEDULE

Game 1: Thursday, at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m. (FSD)

Game 2: Saturday, at Tampa Bay, 3 p.m. (NBC)

Game 3: Tuesday, at Detroit, 7 p.m. (FSD)

Game 4: Thursday April 23, at Detroit, 7 p.m. (FSD)

Game 5: Saturday April 25, at Tampa Bay, time and TV TBD

Game 6: Monday April 27, at Detroit, time and TV TBD

Game 7: Wednesday April 29, at Tampa Bay, time and TV TBD