Detroit – Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said Sunday that Jimmy Howard is expected to return to the lineup next weekend, after the team’s five-day break, when they play the Penguins and Blackhawks on consecutive nights on the road.

Howard is having one of the better seasons of his eight-year career with the Wings, posting a .916 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.66 that jumped after difficult performances against the Canadiens back-to-back Nov. 30 and Dec. 2.

Howard has a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day, Holland said.

The Red Wings will know more Thursday about his status, he said.

It will be an important weekend of play, as the team struggles to remain relevant in the playoff chase.

That remains a goal, Holland said recently.

The Red Wings began play Sunday six points behind the Hurricanes for a wild-card berth, with Carolina holding the first tiebreaker, regulation and overtime wins (ROW).

The Wings recalled goalie Jared Coreau from Grand Rapids to back up Petr Mrazek, due to the injury Howard suffered in the second period Friday against the Panthers.

Coach Jeff Blashill said the Wings’ doctors examined Howard between periods Friday and determined he could continue play. Howard finished the game and played well in the 4-2 win, the Red Wings’ fourth in a row and fifth consecutively at home.

After their optional morning skate, some of the Red Wings talked about playing the Lightning, the best team in the NHL, on Sunday night (7 p.m., Little Caesars Arena, Fox Sports Detroit, 97.1 FM) before heading off on a five-day break.

The Lightning have lost only nine games in regulation through 41, the precise halfway point. After missing the playoffs last season, they are on pace for 58 wins and 122 points, exceptional success in the NHL.

Entering play Sunday, their plus-49 goal differential is 19 better than the next-best NHL team, the surprising Bruins, and 61 goals better than the Wings’ minus-12.

“You can see they put up almost 40 shots per game and have a strong offensive game,” said Jonathan Ericsson, who leads the Wings’ defensemen and team with a plus-5 rating.

“We’ve just got to eliminate, especially, time and space for their key players.”

Before the game, only Ericsson had a plus rating for the Red Wings, while Tyler Bertuzzi and David Booth were level, at zero.

All of the Lightning had a positive rating except for defenseman Andrej Sustr’s minus-4.