Sunrise, Fla. – Petr Mrazek was not healthy enough to practice Friday, and Jeff Blashill said he will start Jimmy Howard against the Panthers Saturday.
But the Red Wings might have Niklas Kronwall back in the lineup.
It is another critical game in the stretch drive for the Red Wings, who are just one point into the playoffs in the standings now – albeit with their closest pursuer, the Flyers, having two games in hand. Blashill obviously would like everyone available, but especially his No. 1 goalie and a key, veteran member of the blue line corps.
But Howard looked good against the Blue Jackets Thursday night and his game has been rounding into shape, even while his long losing streak got extended, before the 3-1 win in Columbus.
“It was a great effort by everyone last night; from the drop of the puck we got off to a great start,” Howard said.
Of the Panthers, whose fine performance under their coach, former Red Wings forward Gerard Gallant, is no longer much in the way of a surprise this season, Howard said, “They’re a dangerous team. They’re very opportunistic, if you’re going to turn the puck over. So, we’re going to have to limit the turnovers.”
Meanwhile, the team is 7-8-3 without Kronwall, including during his arthroscopic knee surgery and recovery in January and February. He has missed three games since he sprained his right knee scrambling to get back into a play against the Rangers Saturday.
Kronwall was expected to be out for 1-3 weeks, and it is looking like the more optimistic timing may work out.
“I hope so. I think so,” Kronwall said, about whether he can play against the Panthers. “I felt good today in practice, so let’s see how it goes tomorrow morning and go from there.”
Kronwall said the timetable was less significant than “getting the treatments in, and let’s see how soon I can get back.
“It’s responded well, so far.”
Mrazek was in the BB&T Center during the practice Friday but he did not put on his equipment or skate. The Wings say Mrazek has the flu.
With Jared Coreau continuing in his emergency backup role, the Wings moved goalie Jake Paterson from the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, to provide a backup for goalie Tom McCollum.