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Red Wings turn to Mrazek in slump-breaking effort

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Mrazek is 8-6-3 with a 2.92 goals-against average and .905 save percentage

Detroit — Jimmy Howard had his chance. Now, Petr Mrazek gets his opportunity again.

Mrazek confirmed he’ll start in net Saturday against Anaheim, after watching Howard get the last three starts.

Mrazek’s last appearance was the start of this five-game home stand — which concludes against the Ducks — when Mrazek was pulled after allowing three goals on 17 shots in the 3-1 loss to the Blue Jackets Dec. 9.

The setback also began this four-game losing streak (0-3-1).

“Try to play the best I can,” said Mrazek of his return to the net. “Try to play as many games as I can, battle hard, and have a good performance.”

In the Columbus game, Mrazek appeared to have difficulty controlling or catching the puck with his glove.

Mrazek shook off the game as part of hockey, and instead concentrated on wanting to limit rebounds.

Confidence, after an uneven start to this season, isn’t an issue.

“I’m confident every practice and every game I’m playing,” Mrazek said. “I don’t find anything different.”

Mrazek is 8-6-3 on the season with a 2.92 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.

Prior to the Blue Jackets’ loss, Mrazek had a pair of overtime victories over the New York Islanders and Winnipeg where his goaltending was a major reason the Red Wings earned two points in those games.

“You look at the five games he played (before Columbus), his numbers were actually real good,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I’ve said this at the beginning of the year, we’ll need both goalies to be good, and we’re in a stretch now where we’ll need both goalies to be good.

Wings' Helm hopes to be back near Jan. 1

“Jimmy played (Thursday) and now we’re going to need Mrazek to be good (Saturday). We have a back-to-back coming up (Monday in Carolina, Tuesday in Tampa), so they’ll both probably play, and we have one more game after that (Dec. 23 in Florida).

“We’ll need both goalies to be real good for us to be the team we want to be. Both will have to be elite.”

Defensive mindset

With the Red Wings struggling to score goals, would Blashill consider opening things up and maybe sacrifice defense in order to get more offensive chances?

Don’t bet on it.

“For me, in the league, the best offense comes from a good defense,” Blashill said. “The biggest thing is, you have to be fast out of your zone, make sure you’re not spending too much time (in the zone) and winning battles.”

Blashill doesn’t want to see the Red Wings allowing dangerous rushes in order to create an offensive chance of their own.

“I don’t think the answer is to give up a lot of chances. We gave up way too many chances (Thursday against Los Angeles). The answer is to continue to limit chances but bear down a little more offensively.”

Net presence

Riley Sheahan hasn’t scored a goal this season but was used on the Red Wings’ power play Thursday and was on the unit at Friday’s practice.

There’s a definitive reason, said Blashill, for the move.

“He probably does a good a job as we have available to us right now of getting in front of the goalie’s eyes,” Blashill said.

Blashill believes Anthony Mantha will grow into the role, but is still learning how to play the position effectively.

Ice chips

Thomas Vanek sat out Friday’s practice, but Blashill expects Vanek to be available against the Ducks.

… Mrazek and Howard both debuted their holiday-themed goalie masks that they’ll use during the upcoming schedule.

Ducks at Red Wings

Faceoff: Saturday, 7 p.m., Joe Louis Arena

TV/radio: FSD, 97.1

Notes: Anaheim (16-10-5, 37 points) is 7-2-1 over its last 10 games and defeated Boston Thursday 4-3…RW Corey Perry (26 points), C Ryan Getzlaf (23 assists) and C Ryan Kesler (Livonia, with 12 goals) lead the Ducks.