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Jimmy Howard knows he’ll get plenty of chances to ‘kick in’

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Teammates congratulate Jimmy Howard after his win over the Rangers.

Detroit – Jimmy Howard is the likely starter in goal, as the Detroit Red Wings play for a fourth consecutive win, after a 0-2 start, Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks.

Both teams enter the game 3-2-0.

Howard was brilliant in a 32-save performance in his first start of the season against the Rangers Wednesday in Madison Square Garden. In part, the 32-year-old goalie repeatedly erased odd-man breaks to deliver the Wings their second win of the season.

“It’s good,” Howard said Saturday morning, about returning to the net so soon in his backup role. “You’re going to get both goalies to kick in this year, especially with the condensed schedule. It’s good to get right back in there.”

The NHL schedule is compacted because of the World Cup of Hockey, played in Canada before the season. Lots of back-to-back games likely will dictate Howard gets lots of action, despite yielding the No. 1 goalie’s slot to Petr Mrazek last season in the playoffs against the Lightning.

The Red Wings are coming off a 5-3 win Friday against the Predators that was probably their best game of the season.

“I thought we did a lot of great things last night,” Howard said. “The only thing that got us in trouble was giving them several power plays.

“And they got a great power-play unit,” he said, of the Sharks.

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San Jose is 3-16 (18.8 percent) on the power play in five games, with Logan Couture garnering two goals and Patrick Marleau one.

With Brett Burns among NHL scoring leaders with three goals and six assists at a point on the power play, and Joe Pavelski (two goals, five assists) and Joe Thornton (five assists) contributing, the Sharks have both a strong power play and a powerful offense.

“It’s going to be the same thing tonight,” Howard said, of the Wings’ intention to stay out of the penalty box and keep the Sharks off the power play. “We’re not going to be able to give them chances off of it.”

Coach Jeff Blashill said he would not reveal his lineup until game time. But Howard participated in the morning skate in the goal at the west end of Joe Louis Arena, the normal spot for the starter, and he left the ice first.

Petr Mrazek, who played Friday, stayed on to take extra shots with some of the Red Wings.

The Wings started Ryan Sproul Friday in his second NHL game on defense instead of Xavier Ouellet, and the veteran forward Steve Ott instead of Andreas Athanasiou. Blashill complimented the play of both, after the game Friday.

Blashill also said the Sharks’ power play is an issue.

“We’d like to stay out of the box,” he said. “Certainly, tonight, that will be one of the big keys.

“This power play historically has been a great power play and continues to be. They do a great job on it.

“We’ve got too many 5-on-3s and 4-on-3s,” Blashill said. “A year ago, we were one of the least penalized teams in the league, in terms of minor penalties. So that’s certainly something we’ll have to clean up.”

Of Burns, Blashill said, “He’s obviously a unique talent in the game. He’s played some forward. Obviously, he’s back and playing regularly on ‘D’ and doing a great job.

“He’s somebody certainly every time you play the Sharks you’ve got to be aware of where Brett Burns is on the ice.”