Red Wings’ Howard draws start at Capitals

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Washington — The last time Jimmy Howard played here, he started the game Jan. 10 against the Capitals after he was just named an All-Star.

Minutes into the game came a hiccup in the Red Wings defense and an attempt by Howard to go in two directions almost simultaneously, in his crease. Down he went, clearly in intense pain, having ripped his groin.

The stretcher came out, carried the All-Star off, and he missed five weeks of the season.

He was not as effective when he returned — until this season, in the two-goalie platoon with Petr Mrazek.

On Tuesday night, coach Jeff Blahsill said, he will get a start in the very next game the Red Wings will play in the Verizon Center, against the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin.

With 12 goals and 11 points, the Capitals captain has 23 points in 24 games — and a shot goalies see in their sleep.

“Well, just the shot,” Howard said, about facing “The Great Eight.”

“Realizing where he is on the ice. He’s dangerous whether he’s in the rush or standing there waiting for the one-timer on the power play.”

Howard will appear in his 13th game, and is 7-4-1 with a 2.28 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

In the 16 in which Mrazek has played, he is 8-4-3 with a 2.41 GAA and .924 save percentage.

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Both goalies have played well, and seem to have adapted to the two-goalie system.

Mrazek played well in both games against the Capitals in Detroit, this season. He stopped all 38 shots on Nov. 10 in a 1-0 shutout win. And he stopped 25 of 27 in a 2-1 overtime loss on Nov. 18.

Blashill said past performance against a specific opponent is only one of several considerations he makes, when choosing the starter.

“We look at a lot of factors, and I’m not the biggest guy on the team you played previously,” he said. “But obviously those weren’t too long ago, and (Mrazek has) done a good job.

“Jimmy Howard has had success here in Washington as well, albeit with the injury. But he’s had a good history of success. So that to me was a little bit of a wash.

“We have lots of things that go into that decision.

“The biggest thing for us is that we feel confident in both guys, and both guys give us a chance to win.

“And it’s Jimmys’ job to go into tonight and give us a win.”

Howard agreed that the job is a bit easier for him and Mrazek, now that the team is scoring more. For a long stretch at the start of the season, their margin for error was tiny.

“But that’s the name of the game, sometimes,” he said. “That’s what Petr and I get paid for, sometimes, win the game for the guys when we’re not scoring.

“But as of late we’ve been doing a great job of generating opportunities, and we’ve been finding the back of the net. We’ve just got to keep that focus of getting pucks to the net, getting traffic in front of opposing team’s goalies and winning the puck battles there, in front.”