The Detroit Red Wings
had room to carry three goalies if they wanted, but decided instead to put veteran backup Ty Conklin
on waivers Monday afternoon.
He cleared waivers on Tuesday and headed to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, where he'll get the majority of minutes.
"I think Ty Conklin
needs to play,” Detroit general manager Ken Holland told reporters on Monday. "He hasn't really got it going. His starts have been sporadic, and I think his play has probably been sporadic. He's played some good games and played some games not so good. We're running a risk he'll get claimed on waivers. We've prepared to take that risk. Jimmy Howard
's finger … we believe he's ready to roll, but we don't know until he gets at it."
Howard will get the start on Tuesday night in Chicago (NBCSN, TSN2), while 32-year old Joey MacDonald
will be the backup. Conklin started the season as Howard's backup, but struggled in most of his opportunities to play and lasted only one period on Feb. 2 in Edmonton in an effort to replace Howard after he went down with a broken finger on Jan. 31 in Vancouver.
MacDonald, Detroit's backup for much of last season, relieved Conklin and didn't come out of the net for the next seven games. He won the last six in a row at Joe Louis Arena to help the Wings set an NHL record with 23 straight home wins.
"Obviously, Joey has been a great story for us," Holland said. "I still think Ty has some good hockey in him and still has some good games left in him. I just talked to him. He hasn't played a lot and hasn't had a really good chance to get it going. It opened a crack and Joey MacDonald
While pleased to be staying in the NHL, MacDonald realizes his job description changes now that Howard is coming back. Howard rarely came out of the net before he got hurt and loves to absorb playing time -- like most goalies. MacDonald started seven straight games and went 6-1-1 in eight appearances filling in for Howard. He also posted stellar secondary numbers, with a 1.66 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
Will it be a difficult switch for MacDonald to now sit most of the time?
"I don't think so," MacDonald said. "I've been around and I know what to expect. Last year, Howie was doing awesome and I just kind of waited and waited and waited and got a start every now and then. That's the thing with a backup goalie. You got to be ready at all times and whatever it is, if it's next week or whenever my next start is, I just got to be ready and just perform the same way as I have been over the last couple of weeks."
The Wings also see the situation as a plus for the organization, especially if Conklin finds his game down in the minors.
"It's the old 'What have you done for me lately?' and Joey MacDonald
has been an incredible story for us the last two weeks," Holland said. "If the other guy goes down and lights it up for two weeks and Joey comes off it, we're in a position [then] that they've both cleared waivers. Joey MacDonald
is in a groove right now. We need Ty Conklin
playing. We still think he's still got good hockey in him. We've seen it this year."
Ironically, one of Conklin's best performances this season came in Chicago on Jan. 8, when he gave up two quick goals in the first period and then shut the Blackhawks down the rest of the way -- setting the stage for Pavel Datsyuk
's game-winning goal late in overtime in a 3-2 Detroit win.