Red Wings' Howard out 4-6 weeks with knee sprain

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Sunrise, Fla. — The Red Wings will be without goalie Jimmy Howard for the next four to six weeks with a knee sprain, general manager Ken Holland said Friday.

Howard was injured Tuesday in the loss to Tampa when his right leg was trapped under several bodies during a goal-mouth collision in the second period.

That’ll leave the Red Wings with Petr Mrazek and Jared Coreau in net.

Coach Jeff Blashill named Coreau the starter for Friday’s game in Florida after the morning skate.

Postponed Red Wings-Hurricanes rescheduled for March 27

Expected to be Mrazek’s backup, Howard has instead outplayed the projected starter despite a 5-7-1 record, thanks mainly to little goal support.

But Howard’s sparkling 1.96 goals-against average (ranked sixth in the NHL) and .934 save percentage (fourth) have made Howard the presumptive No. 1 goaltender.

“I feel real bad for him,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I always look at it certainly for the individual player, it’s a tough, tough thing. He really worked hard to put himself in a good position.

“Obviously, he’s had an excellent start, so then it’s hard to get injured and be out like that.”

This is the second injury for Howard this season. He tweaked his groin Nov. 25 in New Jersey and missed six games.

“Really weird (injuries), not preventable,” said Blashill of the injuries. “It’s unfortunate from our aspect. We’ll just focus on who we have and we have guys who are good enough to get the job done and now we have to execute.”

Coreau part 2

Coreau earned his first NHL start Dec. 3 in Pittsburgh and couldn’t hold a two-goal lead to open the third period, as the Penguins rallied for a 5-3 victory.

Coreau stopped 32 of 36 shots but was disappointed with the third period. He expects to be more calm this time around in the NHL.

“Going down to Grand Rapids after I played that game, I felt like I had more time down there and got to work on my game,” Coreau said. “The biggest thing is just closing out the game. We were up 3-1 (in Pittsburgh) and just have to have to be better.

“It’s something you have to do as an elite goaltender at this level and something I have to work toward.

“My goal up here the next four to six weeks is to just really control my game, stay within my crease and make the saves I have to, and not give up any soft goals.”

Blashill believes Coreau will adequately handle whatever playing time comes his way.

“He’s got a real good skill set and worked real hard to improve over the last number of years,” Blashill said. “The more time he’s up here, the more comfortable you get, that’s part of it.

“He spent some time last year and obviously this year he’s had a little bit of time, the more comfortable and part of your routine (it becomes), that’s a positive thing.

“We’ve got three very, very good goalies in our organization. One of them is not available (Howard) and we decided to give Jared a shot here. We think he can give us elite goaltending.”

Blashill thinks this battle to earn playing time could benefit both Mrazek and Coreau.

“He’s coming here to compete and Jared has a lot of belief in his ability, just like Petr has a lot of belief in his ability,” Blashill said. “Competition is an excellent thing.”

Busy stretch

The Red Wings’ postponed game in Carolina has been rescheduled for Monday, March 27.

That gives the Red Wings three games in three days — they’ll be home on the 26th against Minnesota, then play two consecutive days (27th-28th) in Carolina, before playing in Tampa on March 30th.

The need to reschedule the game was necessary after Monday’s game in Carolina was postponed due to ice quality issues.

Ice chips

It didn’t appear there would be any other lineup changes for the game against Florida.

…Darren Helm (dislocated shoulder) and Brendan Smith (knee) participated in the morning skate and could return at some point next week.

…The Red Wings and the rest of the NHL are off for three days for the holidays. The Red Wings’ next game is Tuesday when they host Buffalo.