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Howard returns as Red Wings face new-look Jets

by Paul Harris / NHL.com

JETS (28-19-10) at RED WINGS (31-13-9)

TV: CITY, FS-D

DETROIT -- Goaltender Jimmy Howard will make his first start in more than a month when the Detroit Red Wings (31-13-9) play the Winnipeg Jets (28-19-10) at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday.

Howard missed 11 games with a partially torn groin muscle. He played the third period on Wednesday in a 4-1 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh.

"Going from practice and feeling good in practice and then all of a sudden there are 10 guys out there in front of you, so that's the biggest thing," Howard said on Friday. "Coach has done quite a few battle drills this week with guys in front of me, whether it's penalty kill or power play or five-on-five situations, so I treated those as a game-like situation."

Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Howard needs to be in top form as quick as possible.

"We don't want to wait two months, we want him back at 'er tomorrow," Babcock said. "Obviously, he's a real good player for us, been real important for us, especially at the start of the year, before we earned our confidence. I think Howie was our best player in that first 10 games. So it's important for him to get up and running and us to have him in the net and feel good about ourselves, so we'll be excited to have him tomorrow."

Defenseman Tyler Myers and forward Drew Stafford are getting accustomed to their new surroundings with Winnipeg. They were acquired from the Buffalo Sabres in the deal that sent Evander Kane and Zach Bagosian to upstate New York.

Myers is paired with Tobias Enstrom.

“The fact that he skates the way he does and moves the puck the way he does, I'm excited to play with him,” Myers said.

Babcock praised the Jets depth on defense.

“There's not many teams that would have - I don't know what order you'd put them in - but [Jacob] Trouba, [Dustin Byfuglien] and [Tyler] Myers all on the right side,” Babcock said. “It's just a good back end. And Enstrom is an elite player.”

Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice, who began his coaching career at Joe Louis Arena when the Ontario Hockey League franchise that is now the Plymouth Whalers played there as the Detroit Junior Red Wings, talked about the challenge of facing the Red Wings.

“They're structured real well. Real good speed, real good skill,” Maurice said. “ … But with all that speed and skill, what I think they've been best at over the years is defense. Those two centers that they have (Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg) are so smart … They're not going to give you anything and they go quickly.”

The Winnipeg players said they need to limit Detroit's time and space when the Red Wings are trying to come out of their defensive zone.

“Get on their D, play the style of play we've been playing and we'll be fine,” said Mathieu Perreault.

Said Stafford: “Really focused on getting in hard and quick and taking away their time and space … We've got to do our best to make sure they don't have many chances and opportunities.”

The Jets are also coming off a loss, 3-1 to the Nashville Predators in Nashville on Thursday. But Maurice said he liked the way his team played.

Babcock, however, did not have that opinion about the Red Wings loss to the Penguins.

"We weren't very good the last game," he said. "We've got a big game here today. We just try to live in the moment here and get prepared for games."

Detroit has yet to lose back-to-back games in regulation this season.

Here are the projected lineups:

JETS

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Drew Stafford

Michael Frolik - Adam Lowry - Chris Thorburn

TJ Galiardi - Jim Slater - Anthony Peluso

Ben Chiarot - Dustin Byfuglien

Tobias Enstrom - Tyler Myers

Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba

Ondrej Pavelec

Michael Hutchinson

Scratched: Paul Postma, Patrice Cormier, Adam Pardy.

Injured: Grant Clitsome (back surgery), Matt Halischuk (undisclosed), Jay Harrison (upper body injury).

RED WINGS

Gustav Nyquist - Henrik Zetterberg - Justin Abdelkader

Darren Helm - Pavel Datsyuk - Tomas Tatar

Luke Glendening - Riley Sheahan - Tomas Jurco

Drew Miller - Joakim Andersson - Stephen Weiss

Jonathan Ericsson - Niklas Kronwall

Kyle Quincey - Danny Dekeyser

Brendan Smith - Alexey Marchenko

Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek

Scratched: Jonas Gustavsson, Jakub Kindl, Daniel Cleary.

Injured: Johan Franzen (concussion).

Status report: Mrazek, who started all of the games when Howard was injured, is expected to be sent to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League.

Who's hot: Byfuglien has two goals and five points in his past three games. … Kronwall has an assist in each of his past two games.

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