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Red Wings' Bernier out at least five games; spotlight turns on struggling Howard

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – The Red Wings have to deal with yet another key injury here in the short term.

Coach Jeff Blashill said after Monday’s practice goaltender Jonathan Bernier will be out until the All-Star break/bye week with an injury that Blashill did not disclose.

Jimmy Howard

The Wings’ begin their break Jan. 23 and don’t play again until Jan. 31 at New York. The Wings have five games before the break.

Jimmy Howard and Calvin Pickard will handle the goaltending in the meantime.

The loss of Bernier is a blow because he had been playing some of his best hockey since joining the Red Wings last season.

Bernier has 10 of the Wings' 12 total victories this season. He is 10-12-2 with a 2.99 goals-against average and .904 save percentage.

Howard, on the other hand, is going through the most difficult season of his career with only two victories (2-15-1, 4.10 GAA, .880 SVS).

“I know I can do it, the hard work will pay off,” said Howard of his current mindset. “Just don’t overanalyze things, quit thinking out there and use my hockey instincts.”

Howard believes it’s important right now to simplify things on the ice.

“Confidence plays a big part of it, for any player,” Howard said. “For scorers not putting the puck in the back of the net, it might be gripping the stick a bit harder. For me, it’s just not thinking and playing one puck out there.

“Don’t think, just play. When the game is going on, basically you’re trying to be three places at once. Just play the one puck.”

Howard has been through slumps in his career, but he admits this season has been the most difficult.

“This is the toughest,” Howard said. “It’s one of those things that is happening and you have to dig yourself out of it.

“I don’t think anyone is really ready for something like this, but you still have to wake up every single day and come to work and get better.”

Blashill doesn’t see anything wrong with Howard’s technique and thinks Howard’s experience will help work the veteran goaltender work through this.

“Jimmy just needs to keep working,” Blashill said. “He’s done a good job of going out every day, kind of similar to our team, and worry about the next game.

“He has a game on the Island (Tuesday, at New York Islanders, 7 p.m., FSD, 97.1 FM), so go out and play great game.

“I don’t think it’s anything big-time with technique. Certainly confidence matters in sports and life and when it’s not going your way in the goaltending position, it certainly matters.

‘The good thing about Jimmy is, he’s been around a long time and certainly this isn’t easy. But his mindset is in a right spot and he said I have to be better and he’s going to work.”

Ice chips

Dylan Larkin, Patrik Nemeth and Frans Nielsen all didn't skate during Monday's practice, but Blashill was optimistic all would be ready to play on Long Island. Blashill said Larkin's injury is some sort of tweak, but Blashill anticipates Larkin being ready to play.

...Blashill isn't using injuries as an excuse for the Wings' plight.

"It's part of sports, and part of hockey," Blashill said. "We have a mentality as a team and coaching staff of worrying about who is available to us. You can't fret about the injuries, it's a reality. There's nothing you can do about it. We can' spend one minute thinking about it, because we have to go and try to win a hockey game with the guys we have available to us and we have a good enough group to win a game, so let's do that."

Red Wings at Islanders

Faceoff: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, N.Y.

TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM 

Outlook: The Islanders (27-12-4) continue to defy analysts’ predictions and are contending for the Metropolitain Division title. ... The Islanders only allow 2.56 goals per game (fourth in NHL) and 110 goals (second best). … C Mat Barzal (17 goals, 37 points) and G Semyon Varlamov (15-5-4, 2.33 GAA, .923 SVS) lead a deep lineup.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan