DETROIT – Mike Babcock has decided to ride the hot hand with his goalie situation, which means journeyman backup Joey MacDonald will get his seventh straight start for the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.
MacDonald will face the San Jose Sharks, who’ve beaten the Red Wings in five straight regular-season games dating back to last season. San Jose hopes to get back to winning itself, but also to end Detroit’s NHL record 22-game home winning streak – which was extended in dramatic fashion Friday night by Pavel Datsyuk’s game-winning goal that beat the Nashville Predators with just 5.8 seconds left in regulation.
“I get the opportunity again, against a great hockey team again,” said MacDonald, who was recalled from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League after starter Jimmy Howard broke his finger Feb. 2 against Vancouver. “We’ll just see if we can keep it rolling. It feels great the coaching staff has the confidence in me to throw me out there again against another great hockey team. I’ve just got to keep building on [five straight wins] and take advantage of the opportunity.”
Howard was originally hoping to return Friday night against the Predators, then set his sights on Sunday’s game against San Jose. Now, he’s slated to start on Tuesday in Chicago, which will be his first game in 19 days.
“That's the game plan now,” said Howard, who opted to stay at Joe Louis Arena and workout on Saturday afternoon rather than attending Detroit’s outdoor practice at Clark Park on the city’s West side. “Joey's doing a great job. We'll let my finger heal up here for a couple more days. It's getting better. The x-rays we had last week are showing improvements, the bone is healing. Hopefully it gets better.”
Datsyuk also missed Detroit’s outdoor skate with what the team said was a slight sore throat and went through the workout back at Joe Louis Arena with Howard and injured forward Patrick Eaves (concussion) – who didn’t wear full equipment, but took shots on Howard.
San Jose practiced at The Joe on Saturday afternoon and is expected to start goalie Antti Niemi – who usually plays well in Detroit – on Sunday, despite some recent struggles to stop the puck. Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray won’t suit up against the Wings because of a fractured Adam’s Apple that happened on Thursday night in Tampa Bay while trying to block a pass.
Murray also sat out a loss Friday night in Carolina.