Detroit – It’s Petr Mrazek’s team for the next little while.
Mrazek reclaimed the Detroit Red Wings’ No. 1 goaltender job after the team placed Jimmy Howard on the seven-day injured list Saturday.
The Red Wings recalled goaltender Jared Coreau from minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids to back up Mrazek, who got the start Saturday night against Montreal.
“I’d call him a ‘money’ goalie; he’s usually risen the opportunity and the moment,” said coach Jeff Blashill of Mrazek, who has had a subpar start to this season. “We need him to rise the moment and here’s a good window of opportunity for him to come in and play great.”
Howard injured his groin in the first period of Friday’s 5-4 overtime victory in New Jersey. Blashill expects Howard to be out a minimum of one week.
Expected to be the backup this season, Howard instead has carved one of the best starts of his career.
Howard ranks among the league leaders with a 1.82 goals-against average and .940 save percentage to go along with a 5-5-0 record and one shutout.
Mrazek has struggled after a good start, but did grind out Friday’s victory with game-saving saves near the end of the victory against the Devils. Mrazek has 5-5-1 record with a 3.18 GAA and .897 save percentage.
Coreau (6-foot-6, 220 pounds) had an 8-5-0 record with 2.39 GAA and .923 save percentage with the Griffins this season, with one shutout.
In 90 games with the Griffins over the last four seasons Coreau, 25, has a 53-32-13 record with 2.43 GAA and .921 save percentage with 10 shutouts.
“I’ve got lots of confidence in Jared Coreau,” Blashill said.
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall sat out Saturday’s game, as the Red Wings continue to manage Kronwall’s sore knee. With Kronwall out, Xavier Ouellet returned to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 2.
Kronwall sat out the Nov. 15 game against Tampa, but has played all four games since, including playing nearly 21 minutes Friday in New Jersey.
Blashill said this was a planned night off for Kronwall.
Ouellet sat out the last 10 games, but Blashill expected the young defenseman to be ready to play.
“Xavier Ouellet is an NHL defenseman, he’s proven that when he’s played and he’s going to get an opportunity to play,” Blashill said.
It’s up to young players, said Blashill, to stay ready and capitalize on their opportunities.
“It’s difficult but it’s also your opportunity to make it in the league,” Blashill said. “This is usually how it works out. Very rarely does it come easy. It usually comes hard and that’s how the best survive.
“He has the opportunity to jump in and he’s done this already and played well. That’s what he’s done in the past and he’ll have to do it again (Saturday).”
The Red Wings also placed defenseman Alexey Marchenko (upper body) on the seven-day injured list.
… Tomas Jurco had a goal and assist in a two-game conditioning stint in Grand Rapids and will rejoin the Red Wings at Monday’s practice. Blashill said Jurco was unavailable to play Saturday because of a residual back stiffness.
“A little stiffness after last night’s game (in Grand Rapids) but that’s kind of normal,” Blashill said. “If he gets cleared on Monday then he’ll be available for Tuesday (against Dallas), and at that point we’ll ease him into the lineup.
“It’ll be a situation where his minutes will start with probably fourth line-type of minutes and hopefully he can build up from there.”
… Blashill said he watched the overtime of the Michigan-Ohio State football game.
“What a football game,” Blashill said. “It was unreal. Obviously a gutsy call on fourth-and-1 (by Ohio State) and a matter of inches.”
Blashill had respect for both coaches – Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer – in a such a hotly-contested game with crucial decisions to be made.
“As a head coach you respect how hard those decisions are and the unknown consequences of making the opposite the decision that nobody talks about,” Blashill said. “Unless if you’re in the decision-making business, it’s easy to overlook those things. I just have a lot of respect for those guys who have to make those kind of hard decisions.”