ST. LOUIS -- Mike Babcock felt like Jimmy Howard couldn't play 48 straight games, so the Detroit Red Wings coach is going to give a young Czech Republic native his first experience in the National Hockey League.
Petr Mrazek will make his NHL debut tonight when the Red Wings face the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.
Mrazek, 20, was recalled as the Red Wings have a host of injuries, including to goalies Jonas Gustavsson (groin) and Joey MacDonald (back). Plus, Babcock said he feels like Howard needs a break. He's started all nine games for the Red Wings this season and in a compressed schedule could use a breather.
"We didn't think [Howard] could play 48 straight, so we thought we better give him [a night off]," Babcock said. "This whole time we thought we'd be getting another goalie back. We just assumed that Gus would play, maybe MacDonald would play, but that never happened so we felt after the last two games that Howie needed a mental break. ... He needs a day where he doesn't have to think about getting another start."
Mrazek, who played for the Czech Republic at the 2011 World Junior Championships and was named to the tournament's all-star team, including the top goaltender award, was 16-7-1 for the Red Wings' American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids. He had a 2.26 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage and was a member of the Western Conference all-star team.
"I'm really excited," said Mrazek, who includes Dominik Hasek and Marc-Andre Fleury as his idols growing up. "I didn't expect it to happen that fast, but I can't wait for tonight. I will try and do my best to stop the pucks tonight. I will enjoy every minute on the ice."
Babcock said, "This kid ... he's been the berries everywhere he's been, so let's watch him.
"He just wins," Babcock added. "Nothing seems to faze him ... he just wins. Grand Rapids was 0-4-1 when he arrived there, and then all he did was come there and change the whole thing."
The Red Wings are beginning a stretch of three games in four days.