It’s business as usual for Wings’ Howard in return

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Los Angeles — There wasn’t anything different watching goalie Jimmy Howard prepare for his start Monday against the Kings.

Howard was on the ice with a few players during an optional morning skate, then worked some off the ice.

Business as usual, just as the time has been from Dec. 29, Howard’s last start in Winnipeg, when Howard was pulled in the second period in favor of Petr Mrazek.

“Nothing out of the ordinary,” Howard said of how he’s prepared.

Mrazek has started five games since, winning the last four.

In fact, Mrazek earned “second star” honors from the NHL for his performance for the week, going 3-0-0 with an 0.67 goals-against average and .978 save percentage.

Mrazek currently ranks sixth in the NHL with a .930 save percentage and 10th with a 2.16 GAA.

But Howard isn’t concentrating on that. He’s working on getting his own game back.

And the fact this isn’t the first time Howard, 31, has worked to come out of a slump gives him confidence.

“I seem to come out on top more times than not,” Howard said. “So just as long as I take care of myself and continue to work hard and be positive and not be a Debbie Downer, which is easy for some guys to do.

“I just have to continue to be a great teammate and push myself and I’ll play well.”

Howard allowed four goals on 14 shots against the Jets in a loss, the second consecutive game he was pulled. Howard allowed three goals in six shots in a 4-2 loss Dec. 22 to New Jersey, in which Mrazek replaced Howard in the first period.

Coach Jeff Blashill wanted Howard to concentrate on the one game at hand, and not necessarily worry about the past or future.

“It’s a game, he has to go and play and it’s not anymore than one single game and be as good as you can be in that one single day,” said Blashill, a former goaltender. “The Winnipeg game was one of those nights where the game didn’t go his way. I didn’t think it was necessarily a poor performance.

“I’ve been in a lot of games where I didn’t feel great early but the puck hit me and maybe hit a few posts and you get in a groove and I’ve been in games where you feel great and you give up some big time chances.

“We have great belief in him.”

Howard spent the time between starts working with goaltending coach Jim Bedard and putting in extra time in practice.

“Let the play come to me,” Howard said of his plan upon returning to the lineup. “It’s easier to do in practice where (everything) is so structured. Hopefully the hard work will transition into (games).”

With the Red Wings playing well, having won four straight, Howard’s big aim is to continue the win streak and earn points.

“You just want to go out there and continue to get points for the guys,” Howard said. “They’ve been doing such a great job night in and night out, you want to pick right up where they last guy did.”