DETROIT -- The last thing the Detroit Red Wings needed was another injury to one of their key players, but that's exactly what happened Monday at Joe Louis Arena.
Starting goaltender Jimmy Howard left the game with a knee injury at 10:44 of the second period and didn't return in a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues. After the game, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said the injury is to the same knee that Howard sprained in December.
That injury sidelined Howard for eight games. Howard, who was named to the U.S. roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics earlier this month, also dealt with a hand injury in October that cost him three games.
GAA: 2.64 | SVP: 0.916
The Red Wings did get some good news on the injury front with the return of center Darren Helm against the Blues. Still, they have five regulars on injured reserve and several others who are out on a day-to-day basis.
Among the key players out are top center Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), top-pair defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (fractured rib, shoulder) and top-six power forward Johan Franzen (concussion). Backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (groin, neck) is also on IR, along with veteran center Stephen Weiss (sports hernia surgery) and Daniel Alfredsson (groin, back).
"Obviously we have people that we’ve had out for a long time," Babcock said. "I believe we're finding players. Riley Sheahan looks like a hockey player to me. [Luke Glendening] looks like a hockey player to me. So let's keep finding players."
Another one of those "finds" will have to be rookie goaltender Petr Mrazek, who will shoulder the load until Howard or Gusavsson return. He's looked good so far, posting a 1-3-0 record with a 1.60 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in six appearances prior to filling in for Howard on Monday.
Mrazek made 13 saves in 29:16 of time in the net.
"It's a big loss," Mrazek said. "[Howard's] the No. 1 goaltender and he's been great for the last couple of games. But we have to think of the positive and play the same game."
Detroit will practice Tuesday while getting ready to face the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. The Blackhawks are buzzing along near the top of the NHL standings again, so Detroit's task doesn't get any easier.
"Injuries have been plenty this year, unfortunately, for whatever reason," forward Justin Abdelkader said. "But we can win with this group. Up to this point we've played well. Chicago's always a fun matchup. I think we always play those guys good. We've got to bring a better game, we've got to compete harder for 60 minutes. We know how we've got to play to get a win."