-- After facing live shots in a practice on Saturday for the first time in 10 days, Jimmy Howard
took more shots on Sunday morning and continues to takes steps toward returning from a broken index finger on his blocker-side hand.
Howard, who said the pain in the finger subsides each day, is aiming to return for the Detroit Red Wings
on Friday at home against the Nashville Predators
in a Central Division showdown.
"There's no reason to rush back," Howard said. "Give it a couple more days to heal and allow me to get a couple more practices under my belt, so I can get my game back to where it was."
Howard had posted a League-high 32 wins prior to leaving the starting lineup after beating the Vancouver Canucks
4-3 in a shootout on Feb. 2 at Rogers Arena. Howard's finger was broken early in the third period against the Canucks on a shot by Maxime Lapierre.
"I went out there again and took shots again today," Howard said after Detroit's optional morning skate on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena. "It's just going out there and basically getting confidence in that it's not going to hurt or anything like that. The pain level has been going down every day."
Backup Ty Conklin
started the first game that Howard missed, but was replaced by Joey MacDonald
mid-game. The journeyman goalie has played well in three straight starts since, including the last two in a row at home to put the Wings on the verge of tying the NHL record for consecutive home wins (20) on Sunday night (7:30 p.m., NBCSN) against the Philadelphia Flyers
"Joey's stepped in and done a tremendous job," said Howard, who has a notch cut out of his goalie stick to help reduce the effects of vibrations from a puck hitting it. "It's great. We've got to continue to get points, and Joey's doing a hell of a job."
Howard said his main goal right now is just to get his body and eyes back into game-ready condition.
"After not seeing shots for 10 days, following the puck around was really difficult," he said. "Just working here and doing the drills, hopefully I can get myself right back in there. It's going to take a few days to get your timing back. It's just amazing how fast it goes. I'm trying to treat the practices here as a game."
As for that consecutive home wins record, which Howard prevailed in the first 17 games?
"You come this far, now you want it," Howard said. "Everyone in this dressing room, you're not really talking about it, but you know it's in the back of everyone's mind. To put this many consecutive wins together at home, now you want to continue to keep it going. Now that's right on top of us, we're not really talking about it in the dressing room but I think it would be an absolute great achievement."
MacDonald, however, said that he's trying not to put any added emphasis on the game in the way that he's preparing to play.
"I'm trying not to think about it," he said. "It's there. You know about it. I'm just going to go into it like I did the last couple games. Just go in, try to stay nice and calm and relax in there. You know the guys in front of you are going to do a nice job, so just keep building on it."