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At the Rink blog

Status quo as Howard recovers from broken finger

Wednesday, 02.08.2012 / 2:20 PM

By Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent / At the Rink blog


DETROIT -- Status quo is the term of the day for Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who will miss a third consecutive game with a broken index finger when his team faces the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena.

It's been seven days since Howard broke the finger stopping a shot against the Vancouver Canucks, but a visit with the doctor on Wednesday morning didn't really reveal anything new in his recovery or shed light on a timeline for returning to action.

"It's pretty much the same news as before," Howard said after the Red Wings' morning skate, which he dressed for, but did not take shots. "It's just going to take a little while to heal."

It could potentially be a couple more games, if not longer. Howard said the main issue is pain tolerance and how much he can withstand and still be effective in net. As for the next step in his recovery -- facing live shots from teammates in practice -- Howard said he'd like to get in a couple of solid practice sessions before coming back.

"It's been seven days now, so the timing can go a little bit," he said. "I've missed seven days worth of shots, so I'd like to get a couple of practices in before I come back. It all depends on how it feels. This whole thing, with it obviously being broken, is just going to be basically how the finger feels out there. We'll work on (adjusting the equipment) but there's no guarantee it's going to work."

Replacing Howard will be Joey MacDonald, who will get his second straight start in net for the Wings. Detroit has won 17 straight home games, but all of them came with Howard starting. In fact, Howard has started all 23 home games for Detroit and posted a sterling 20-2-1 mark.

That, in itself, makes sitting out even tougher to swallow.

"It's frustrating just because I want to be out there with the guys," said Howard, who still leads the League with 32 wins and was on pace to break Martin Brodeur's single-season NHL record of 48 victories prior to getting injured. "I enjoy being out there. I love the competition and the downfall is not being able to be out there."

Howard said he's not concerned about the interruption throwing him off-kilter for the remaining portion of the season, but he's still working hard off the ice on conditioning drills to keep his legs strong for whenever he can return.

Meanwhile, it's just assessing how much pain the finger is causing him. The doctor told Howard that it'd be hard to do more damage by playing, so his ultimate return will be based on how confident he feels in his abilities while playing with a fractured bone in a finger on his blocker hand.

"It's just all going to depend on pain threshold and what I can and cannot withstand out there," Howard said. "Every single day the finger's getting better. I'm just trying to keep on top of things here with doing skating drills and keep my legs under me, so when I'm able to come back hopefully I can pick up where I left off."

In other Red Wings news, forward Danny Cleary will likely play despite lingering knee soreness that might need to be relieved with an injection at some point. Defenseman Brad Stuart is also healthy enough to play against the Oilers -- who called up Magnus Paajarvi on Tuesday to replace injured star rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder).

Also, Edmonton coach Tom Renney said he plans on coaching the game after missing Monday night's contest in Toronto with concussion-like symptoms after being hit in the head with a puck at the morning skate and needing stitches.

Here is how Edmonton and Detroit could line up on Wednesday night:

OILERS

Magnus Paajarvi - Shawn Horcoff - Ales Hemsky
Taylor Hall - Sam Gagner - Jordan Eberle
Ryan Smyth - Eric Belanger - Ryan Jones
Ben Eager - Anton Lander - Lennart Petrell

Ladislav Smid - Tom Gilbert
Ryan Whitney - Jeff Petry
Andy Sutton - Corey Potter

Nikolai Khabibulin
Devan Dubnyk

RED WINGS
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Danny Cleary
Cory Emmerton - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Jakub Kindl

Joey MacDonald
Ty Conklin

I've been getting frustrated lately, and the only thing keeping me sane was the team winning and other people stepping up and scoring. Then you just kind of let it go and realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment, and that's what happened.

— Montreal forward Max Pacioretty after scoring the series winner in Game 4 -- his first career playoff goal -- to eliminate the Lightning and send the Canadiens into the second round