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Injuries hamper once-wonderful season for Howard

by Brian Hedger
DETROIT -- Jimmy Howard had just played in his first NHL All-Star Game when a magical season in which he was on pace to set a new League record for wins came to a screeching halt in Vancouver.

A hard shot by Maxim Lapierre struck the Red Wings goalie in the right hand and broke his index finger -- that kept him out for eight games in February. After making five of six starts when he returned, Howard left a game March 4 against Chicago after just one period because of an issue with his groin.

That one kept him out for three straight games. He returned to start three of four before leaving with another groin issue, which still has him sidelined heading into a Saturday night game at Joe Louis Arena against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Ty Conklin will instead get the start with rookie Jordan Pearce filling the back-up role.

"Groins are an important part of being a goaltender," Howard said on Saturday morning, after taking shots for the first time in a week. "It is frustrating. I mean, I thought we got a good handle on it prior to me coming back in L.A. Everything was feeling really good. It was frustrating, but at the same time [I'm] just trying to be optimistic and staying positive, trying to keep my mind in the right frame of mind."

He's also working on rehabbing the groin muscle in question.

"We're trying to really strengthen it so it's stronger than what it was before," Howard said. "We're doing a lot of stuff in the weight room with the bands and stuff, really trying to make it a lot stronger. Not so much stretching it. The flexibility's there, it's just strengthening it.

"I don't know what the magic number is or anything like that for getting ready. Just being out there and taking shots in practice feels good again. I'm hoping it's not going to take that much longer."

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