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Consummate pro MacDonald can help make history

by Brian Hedger

DETROIT -- If there's one thing that Joey MacDonald has learned from playing professional hockey for nearly a decade, it's that there's no time for pouting.

The sport simply moves too fast, both on and off the ice. Pouting goalies often find themselves on the wrong end of a great move, shot or -- in his case -- transaction. The 31-year old MacDonald has learned that lesson simply by learning to survive in pro hockey, which has seen him bounce around between five NHL teams and four teams in the American Hockey League over nine seasons.

"I've been up and down so much," said MacDonald, who's started the last four games for the Detroit Red Wings and won three in a row, all at Joe Louis Arena, to help the Wings tie a rare NHL record with 20 consecutive home wins. "You see a lot of guys who get sent down and their heads are down, but you know what? You just go down and work hard. You were up for a reason and if you go down and work hard, you're going to be back up again. You've just got to be patient and wait, and your time will come."

Joey MacDonald
Goalie - DET
RECORD: 3-1-1
GAA: 1.87 | SVP: 0.926
That seems especially true for MacDonald, who will start against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night in Detroit's bid to be the only NHL team that's ever won more than 20 straight home games in a season. Despite a journeyman career, MacDonald has filled in admirably for the top team in the League, which lost starter Jimmy Howard on Feb. 2 in Vancouver to a broken the index finger.

MacDonald, however, is taking it all in stride. The first two goals he allowed in a 4-3 win on Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers weren't pretty, but he gathered himself after each one and helped the Wings win -- which tied them with the 1929-30 Boston Bruins and 1975-76 Flyers with an NHL record 20 straight wins on home ice.

Detroit led 1-0 in the first until MacDonald misplayed a puck behind the net late in the period that led to an easy tap-in by Brayden Schenn. MacDonald also swatted a rebound right to Schenn in the second period for the Flyers' second goal.

"It's the game of hockey," he said. "You look around the League and it happens a lot. [The first goal] was a play where the puck rolled off my stick and the biggest thing is you have to let it go. If you sit there all period just thinking about it and thinking about it, then the next shot you'll be digging it out of the back of the net, too. You have to get it go, give a little chuckle, say, 'Yeah, that's my fault,' and go out and make the next save."

Teammates and coach Mike Babcock admire that kind of fortitude. MacDonald doesn't hide from the description of journeyman. He embraces it, knowing that he's worked hard to keep his career going for nearly a decade -- which is more than a lot of players can say.


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"When you look at him, I don't see a skill set through the roof," Babcock said. "When I see Carey Price, I say, 'He's phenomenal from day one.' [MacDonald's] a guy who, with his skill set, is maximizing -- and that's what you want as a human being. You want to be able to maximize whatever you're given and he's done that and found a way to be a good man and good competitor and earn himself a career."

Last season, MacDonald spent most of the year in Detroit as the backup -- but also drove back and forth across Michigan a few times, from Detroit to Grand Rapids and back, in a five-year old pickup he calls "Big Red."

Once last season, MacDonald was sent down on the morning of a game and recalled later that afternoon when now-retired veteran Chris Osgood was deemed unable to be Detroit's backup that night. MacDonald just hopped back in "Big Red" and headed east, back to the NHL.

"It's the way my whole career's [gone]," said MacDonald, who's originally from Pictou, Nova Scotia. "I made a few trips back and forth [last year]. I got sent down one morning and got called back up that same night, but it's all good."

Good enough that he turned down an opportunity to play in Russia and for other NHL organizations this season to stick with the Red Wings. He signed a two-year deal to keep him with Detroit.

"This is where I want to be," said MacDonald, who originally joined the Wings in 2002 and played four seasons in Grand Rapids before making his NHL debut in 2006-07. "I've played with some other [NHL] teams and I may be a little biased, but this is where I want to be and where I want to stay."

After the Wings signed Conklin to be Howard's backup this season, MacDonald knew he was headed back to Grand Rapids to start out. He just didn't let it bother him.

"That's one thing with me," said MacDonald, whose mask honors Osgood with a tribute on one side of it and the 'Mighty Mac' Mackinac Bridge on the front. "I've just battled and battled wherever I was. I've watched guys get sent down and hang their heads, and I was never like that. No one likes to get sent down, but you kind of build on it and work hard wherever you are -- and if you do, good things will happen."

It's an outlook that was instilled in him back in Nova Scotia by his "hard-working" parents, Leonard and Judy.

"They let me make a lot of my own decisions, but they said, 'Hey, if you're in it, you're in it for the long haul,'" MacDonald said. "You have to like what you're doing and my dad has been working on the ferry that runs from Nova Scotia to PEI for 40 to 45 years, doing the same thing over and over. And he's still working strong doing it. [Hockey is] a game. Wherever you are, you have to have fun doing it. Otherwise it will be a short career."

As for the chance to backstop the Wings to sole possession of the League's longest home winning streak?

"It's quite an accomplishment, and for me to kind of get thrown in, it's great," MacDonald said. "Howie's had 17 straight home wins. That's amazing and quite an accomplishment. Two weeks ago I was watching No. 17 and I was like, 'Wow, are they going to break [the record]?' [Now] to be thrown into it, it's just great and hopefully we can keep building."

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