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Howard to start for Red Wings against Blue Jackets

Illness sidelines Detroit's Mrazek; Columbus' Bjorkstrand makes NHL debut

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

RED WINGS (34-25-11) AT BLUE JACKETS (28-33-8)

TV: 7 p.m. ET; FS-D, FS-O, NHL.TV

COLUMBUS - The Detroit Red Wings will be without starting goaltender Petr Mrazek because of an illness, so Jimmy Howard will start against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Thursday.

The Red Wings are one point behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, which gives reason for Howard not to overlook Columbus, which defeated Detroit 5-3 on March 8.

"When it comes to us versus the Blue Jackets, anything can happen," Howard said. "They're always fun, intense games. Just because they're banged up doesn't mean they're not going out there and work. That's what their coach demands of them."

The Blue Jackets, not officially eliminated from playoff contention but close to it, will likely have new four players since their 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday, including forward Oliver Bjorkstrand in his NHL debut. Defenseman Dalton Prout is suspended, and defenseman Fedor Tyutin is sick and unlikely to play. In addition, defenseman Jack Johnson had shoulder surgery Thursday that ended his season.

Columbus recalled defensemen Justin Falk and John Ramage from Lake Erie of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis. Falk has played 20 games for the Blue Jackets this season.

Ramage, the son of retired NHL player Rob Ramage, signed a free-agent contract with Columbus on July 3, 2015 after playing his only NHL game for the Calgary Flames against the Winnipeg Jets on April 11, 2015.

"Obviously it was only one game but it was nice to get the first one out of the way and see what it's all about and not during preseason," Ramage said.

Ramage's parents weren't able to attend his NHL debut but have flown in from St. Louis to watch him in Nationwide Arena.

Bjorkstrand, the 89th pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, was the Western Hockey League's Player of the Year for 2014-15 with 118 points, including 63 goals. The 20-year-old had 15 goals and 25 points in 46 games for Lake Erie this season. 

"It's a good time for opportunities for guys like me and to make the best out of it," Bjorkstrand said. "I'm sure it will help me for next year."
Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said there is a balance between evaluating the young players in game situations and maintaining the competitive balance.

"I know there are a couple of teams that want us to beat Detroit tonight," he said. "You also have to keep that in mind. Keep that integrity."

Here are the projected lineups:


Justin Abdelkader - Henrik Zetterberg - Dylan Larkin

Tomas Tatar - Pavel Datsyuk - Anthony Mantha

Gustav Nyquist - Riley Sheahan - Andreas Athanasiou

Darren Helm - Luke Glendening - Brad Richards

Danny DeKeyser - Kyle Quincey

Brendan Smith - Mike Green

Jonathan Ericsson - Alexey Marchenko

Jimmy Howard

Jared Coreau

Injured: Niklas Kronwall (knee), Drew Miller (knee), Johan Franzen (concussion), Petr Mrazek (illness)

Scratched: Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco


Brandon Saad - Boone Jenner - Cam Atkinson

Brandon Dubinsky - Alexander Wennberg - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Scott Hartnell - William Karlsson - Nick Foligno

Matt Calvert -Michael Chaput - Gregory Campbell  

Ryan Murray - David Savard  

Justin Falk - Seth Jones  

Cody Goloubef - John Ramage  

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney  

Injured: Jack Johnson (shoulder), David Clarkson (undisclosed), Fedor Tyutin (illness)

Scratched: Jared Boll, Rene Bourque

Suspended: Dalton Prout

Status report: Coreau was recalled from Grand Rapids of the AHL to back up Howard. … Mantha, the 20th pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, is in the lineup again after making his NHL debut on Tuesday against the Flyers. "The first game is always more exciting, more pressure," he said. "You don't know what to expect. Now I'm ready for all those aspects and know what I need to do." … Dubinsky, the Blue Jackets' top center, was moved to left wing and Jenner, a left wing, goes to center for the rest of the season, "I want to see him play center for a number of games here and see what he can do before we go into camp next year," Tortorella said.

Who's hot: Datsyuk and Tatar each had a goal and an assist against the Flyers. … Atkinson (9-4) and Dubinsky (4-9) each have 13 points in their past 13 home games.

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