ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Wednesday could be one of the most memorable days of Jimmy Howard's hockey career. Not too long ago, he feared it would not come to pass.
Howard will be the starting goaltender for the Detroit Red Wings in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium against the Toronto Maple Leafs in front of possibly the largest crowd in the history of the sport. After the game, Howard could be named to the United States team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The American Olympic team will be announced at Michigan Stadium after the Winter Classic as part of NBC's coverage of the game. Reports suggest that Howard will be one of the three goalies named.
When Howard left practice 20 days ago with a knee injury, his availability for the game at the Big House was in question and his potential place on the U.S. Olympic roster was cast into further doubt. He ended up missing eight games, but returned Monday night against the Nashville Predators and is ready to play Wednesday.
"Yeah, I'd be lying if I told you I didn't [have doubts about being ready]," Howard said. "When the knee injury happened, it was [projected to be] 3-4 weeks. It would have been three weeks right on the date of the game. You know I have to give a lot of credit to our team doctors and to our trainers. We worked extremely hard to get the knee back healthy and we were able to accomplish that."