DETROIT – Jimmy Howard will become an unrestricted free agent this summer if the Detroit Red Wings don’t reach a contract extension with him, but he does know what he wants to happen.
“I want to play here a long time,” Howard said. “It’s been hard to think about anything [other than playing games] because we’ve been playing so much, but it’s something I’d like to get worked out.”
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told NHL.com earlier this week that reaching a deal on a contract extension with Howard is his plan, so what’s left is actually negotiating the deal. Whether that happens during the season or afterward remains to be seen, but there might not be a lot of time for it to happen after the season ends if the Red Wings qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and go on any sort of extended run.
Detroit hosts the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday (12:30 p.m., NBC) and Howard is expected to get the start. Corey Crawford will start for the Blackhawks, who are still leading the Western Conference with 53 points and have beaten the Red Wings by identical 2-1 scores in each of the first two meetings this year – once in overtime and once in a shootout.
Detroit traded veteran defenseman Kent Huskins on Saturday to help clear room for a return to the active roster by forward Mikael Samuelsson, while Chicago recalled forward Jeremy Morin from Rockford of the American Hockey League.
Morin practiced at right wing on the third line in place of Viktor Stalberg – who got a bad cut after being hit in the face with a puck off the stick off Ryan Getzlaf in a 2-1 loss on Friday night in Chicago. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told reporters in Chicago on Saturday that Stalberg is likely to play against the Red Wings.
Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, however, are both still sidelined with upper-body injuries and did not make the trip to Detroit. Quenneville didn’t rule out one or both returning on Monday night at United Center against the Nashville Predators.
Meanwhile, Quenneville indicated that he might shake up his defense pairings – which had previously been set in stone all season.
“We don’t mind the way they’re playing, but … it’s something we might try just to see how it looks, just in case,” Quenneville said. “There can never be enough options and usually you get a test of who can play with who and how different pairs look with a couple new defensemen into our team [this year] and we’ll see how that can look.”
If Quenneville indeed shakes it up against the Red Wings, look for Hjalmarsson to be paired with Keith, Leddy to play with Seabrook and Oduya and Rozsival to shift together.
Here’s a look at how the Blackhawks and Red Wings might line up on Sunday:
Brandon Saad – Jonathan Toews – Michael Frolik
Jimmy Hayes – Dave Bolland – Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell – Andrew Shaw – Viktor Stalberg
Daniel Carcillo – Marcus Kruger – Jamal Mayers
Duncan Keith – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Michal Rozsival
Scratched: Sheldon Brookbank, Brandon Bollig, Jeremy Morin
Injured: Patrick Sharp (IR, upper body), Marian Hossa (IR, upper body)
Justin Abdelkader – Pave Datsyuk – Johan Franzen
Valtteri Filppula – Henrik Zetterberg – Damien Brunner
Danny Cleary – Joakim Andersson – Mikael Samuelsson
Drew Miller – Cory Emmerton – Patrick Eaves
Niklas Kronwall – Jonathan Ericsson
Brian Lashoff – Brendan Smith
Jakub Kindl – Ian White
Scratched: Jordin Tootoo, Gustav Nyquist, Dan DeKeyser, Carlo Colaiacovo
Injured: Todd Bertuzzzi (IR, back), Darren Helm (IR, back), Kyle Quincey (IR, facial fracture)