Ottawa, Ontario – It’s a routine that goaltender Petr Mrazek has become familiar with this season.
Mrazek was one of the final Red Wings off the ice after Thursday’s morning skate, trudging into the cramped visitor’s locker room at Canadian Tire Center, after exhaustive work with goaltending coach Jeff Salajko and several players.
It was obvious Mrazek had put a lot of work in. He had to, what with his lack of games recently.
“You have to be ready as a goalie,” said Mrazek, who will watch goaltender Jimmy Howard Thursday make his sixth consecutive start. “I try to work hard every day and put in the extra work for when I get the call, to be ready.”
Mrazek hadn’t played since losing 4-3 in overtime Oct. 20 to Washington. Mrazek faced 43 shots that game, a followup to Mrazek replacing Howard in Toronto two nights before when coach Jeff Blashill lifted Howard in the first period.
In all, Mrazek has only played in four games, owning a 1-2-1 record with a 3.24 goals-against average and .901 save percentage.
The number aren’t glowing, but in this case, they don’t reflect the way Mrazek has played.
“Petr has played well, that’s for sure,” Blashill said. “I don’t even know if the stats reflect how well he’s played. He was in a couple tough games. He’s played real good.”
For any hockey coach, it can be a fine line as to how long to go with a hot goalie, as Howard is right now, and get a back-up a game before rust and inactivity sets in.
“You don’t want to let guys sit too long,” Blashill said. “You know you’re going to need him at some point, but Jimmy is playing at a high level. We have a back-to-back coming up (Sunday and Monday) and it’ll be easy to get Petr in.”
The key for a back-up goalie is to work as hard as possible in practice to stay sharp, and that’s been Mrazek's objective lately.
The work with Salajko is vital these days, working on every area a goaltender would see and use during a game.
“It’s the same (stuff) we work on always, the same thing you have to work on (every day), like traffic (in a goaltender’s vision), tips, plays around the net, reverses, all the things you keep working on all season,” Mrazek said. “Practice has been good. We’re doing a lot of work. I’m excited for the next start.”
Despite the lack of game action, Mrazek feels the work he put in during the summer is still relevant and he can go back to it.
“I still feel great in the games,” Mrazek said. “When I played, I looked a little different from last season, and that’s from the work I put in over the summer.
“And I’m trying to continue to improve.”
The questions about Mrazek’s work ethic were one reason the Red Wings left Mrazek exposed in the expansion draft, though Vegas decided to not select Mrazek. That decision surprised many analysts who felt the Golden Knights would have been well served grabbing a young goalie who has had success in the NHL.
But Mrazek trained hard over the summer, and has come into this season with an apparently new attitude and approach to his career.
“His work ethic has been excellent,” Blashill said. “His attention to detail has been excellent, his approach to improve and his technique has been excellent, he just has to keep doing that so when he goes out and gets an opportunity to play, he has the foundation.
“Confidence comes from when you put the work in to be successful and he’s done that. Obviously everyone wants to get into a game groove, and everyone wants to play every night, but that’s not the way it always goes. He just has to stay ready.”