Mrazek sick so Howard starts; Kronwall skating again
Columbus – The Red Wings will not have goalie Petr Mrazek for Thursday night’s game in Columbus.
Mrazek is ill and isn’t expected to be in uniform, so Jimmy Howard will get the start.
The Red Wings recalled Jared Coreau from minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids to be Howard’s backup.
“You always come to the rink prepared to play,” said Howard, who heard about Mrazek’s illness earlier in the morning. “This is no different from any other time.”
Mrazek (26-15-6, .924 SVS, 2.21 GAA) won the starting job from Howard (8-10-5, .907, 2.82) in January after a sizzling stretch during the month. But Mrazek has lost four of his last six decisions, while Howard has steadily regained his balance in brief opportunities.
Howard’s last start was a 4-3 loss March 8 at Nationwide Arena here in Columbus, stopping 27 shots. But in his last 11 decisions Howard has won once, Feb. 29 in Dallas.
Howard is eager to play; the Red Wings are battling to rejoin the playoff picture. They fell one point behind Philadelphia Wednesday for the final wild-card spot in the East after the Flyers defeated Chicago.
“We’ve been there on the outside looking in and we found a way to get in,” Howard said. “We just have to continue to keep coming together and playing for each other.”
The Red Wings looked like they could have used a veteran presence on defense in their loss Tuesday in Philadelphia.
They might be adding one such player soon – perhaps before the end of this four-game road trip -- as Niklas Kronwall (sprained knee) participated in Thursday’s morning skate.
Kronwall was hurt Saturday against the New York Rangers when he tumbled over Andreas Athanasiou and the Rangers’ Jasper Fast, but Kronwall escaped serious injury.
“When you fall you try to limit the damage, and all in all, I got lucky,” said Kronwall, who couldn’t put much weight on the knee moments after the injury. “The way things felt right away when it happened, it was more of a scary thing.”
Kronwall skated for the first time Thursday since getting hurt.
“Feels pretty good,” Kronwall said. “Today was good day and hopefully there will be another good day and another and we’ll go from there.”
Coach Jeff Blashill wouldn’t rule out Kronwall playing on this road trip.
“He skated good,” Blashill said. “We’ll continue to evaluate; it’s day-by-day. I know he’s pushing to get back as soon as possible. He’s a heck of a warrior.”
Missing these crucial games in the end of the season is difficult, said Kronwall.
“It’s the time of year you want to be playing,” Kronwall said. “Hopefully I’ll be back shortly.”
The Red Wings have allowed the game’s first goal in all seven games in the month of March. They’re 2-5 in those games.
“It’s a tough league to come back,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “You want to try to get the lead or at least try to play a strong game at the start.”
The Red Wings are 6-15-3 when trailing after the first period, 6-19-1 when trailing after two periods.
“Scoring is big but not allowing teams to get up a couple of goals is big, too,” Abdelkader said.
Blashill felt the start wasn’t the issue Tuesday as much as how the Red Wings played after Philadelphia scored early.
“We have to do a better job of being resilient in those situations,” Blashill said.
Coreau didn’t arrive in time for the morning skate, which meant the Red Wings needed one more goalie to face shots along with Howard.
Junior goalie Bailey Seagraves, who trains under Red Wings minor-league goalie coach Jeff Salajko, was contacted by Salajko (a Columbus native) and hurried to get to Nationwide Arena.
“You can’t pass up an opportunity like this,” said Seagraves, who was originally planning on studying for his ACT test Thursday morning. “It was pretty amazing. You have to be real sharp out there. It’s a whole new level with the releases (of NHL players). They can hold it, wait you out, and put it in the net.
“I can see why they’re all playing in the NHL.”