Wings' Howard on Babcock: 'He makes the decisions'

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Jimmy Howard

Detroit – Jimmy Howard continues to work and prepare Tuesday for the upcoming series against the Lightning, just as he would any playoff series.

Only this time Howard isn't the starter. He will back up Petr Mrazek.

"It's his decision," Howard said of coach Mike Babcock after Tuesday's practice, as the Red Wings prepared to head to Tampa Bay. "He's the coach. He makes the decisions."

Babcock announced his goalie decision Monday.

Howard was 23-13-11 with 2.44 goals-against average and .910 save percentage and two shutotuts this season. He was named to the All-Star team in early January, only to be injured later that evening, suffering a slight groin tear.

Returning a month later, Howard was never able to recapture the form he had before, with a 2.99 GAA and .896 SVS over his final 21 games.

"I'm just going to continue to work and when my number is called upon, I have to respond for the guys," Howard said.

Howard is in the second year of a six-year contract worth $32 million.

With Mrazek's rapid rise this season, questions will now surface as to whether Howard could be traded during the summer.

"I'm not thinking about that right now," said Howard of his future with the organization.

Howard heard he wasn't going to be the starter for Game 1 through goaltending coach Jim Bedard. Babcock has yet to speak to Howard.

"He hasn't talked to me at all," Howard said. "He's probably got a lot on his plate right now (preparing for the playoffs). For me, it's about focusing and getting ready if called upon."

For sure, said Howard, there's an element of motivation if he does get the opportunity to get back onto the ice.

"You want to be out there," Howard said.

Feeling no pressure

If he was nervous about his first Stanley Cup playoffs, Red Wings defenseman Alexey Marchenko didn't show it.

Called up for last weekend's finale against the Hurricanes, Marchenko performed well enough to earn a spot in the lineup for Game 1 on Thursday.

"There's no pressure," Marchenko said. "I'm treating this as any (other) practice. Just getting ready for the series and learning what we have to do against this team (Tampa Bay)."

Marchenko said he thought he was going to play one game then return to Grand Rapids.

Helm in key spot

Red Wings forward Darren Helm returned to practice after a sick day Monday.

"I feel a lot better," Helm said. "I just wasn't feeling great and felt it would be better to get some more rest. I felt it paid off."

Helm will have a key role stopping a slew of high-scoring Lightning forwards.

"They were the best offensive team in the league," Helm said. "They had the most goals. They have a lot of talent up front, guys who can put the puck in the net. Four lines that are a threat.

"We have to limit their opportunities and keep the puck out of the net."