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Mrazek's the No. 1 for Red Wings

Detroit goalie has won job from Jimmy Howard

by Paul Harris / Correspondent

DETROIT -- Henrik Zetterberg and his Detroit Red Wings host the Boston Bruins on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena (3:30 p.m. ET; NBC), and it's not difficult for the Detroit captain to pinpoint why it's a contender in the Atlantic Division.

"It's definitely a Mrazek thing, combined with the team thing," Zetterberg said. "It doesn't matter how good a team is in front of you, if you're not stopping the puck you won't reach those numbers. He's probably a little modest about it, but he should be proud of that and he's been playing well all year."

Goalie Petr Mrazek has 21 wins in 38 games, and going into play Saturday led the NHL in goals-against average (1.94) and save percentage (.933). He's a big reason the Red Wings are 28-19-9 with 65 points, which was fourth in the Eastern Conference.

"I'm just trying to build momentum from last year, learning stuff, keep going, don't get frustrated if it doesn't go your way," said Mrazek, who turns 24 on Sunday. "When you play more, you get more confidence and feel better in the net. I feel like that's the difference."

At the opening of training camp last fall, Mrazek was in a competition with Jimmy Howard, who made 350 starts in his 10-year Red Wings career, for the No. 1 job. Mrazek replaced Howard when the latter was injured last season. When Howard returned after missing a month, he couldn't regain his form and Mrazek won the job for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He showed his mettle in a first-round, seven-game loss to the eventual Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning with two shutouts, a 2.11 GAA and .925 save percentage.

Video: OTT@DET: Mrazek stones rocket, sprawls for rebound

"Ever since he came in he had kind of that X-factor," Zetterberg said. "Even if he let in a bad goal, he forgets about it really fast, and you saw it last year in those games he didn't think he played that well. The next game he came in and played really well. You see that from the good goaltenders."

Mrazek's success is familiar to teammate Tomas Tatar, who won the American Hockey League Calder Cup with the Czech in Grand Rapids in 2013.

"He always played with confidence and he always looked good," Tatar said. "If he had a bad game, he'd shake it off and the next day he was perfect. That's how I see him here. He doesn't think about it much. He's showing us we can trust him."

In addition to his obvious talent, Mrazek's makeup is what is setting him apart.

"He's always had special mental qualities in the sense that he doesn't get nervous, he's extremely competitive, he's got a high battle level around the crease," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "He's got a real confidence to him. When things don't go his way he's got a short memory and he just moves on to the next shot, or the next day or the next game."

This season, there haven't been many games when Mrazek hasn't played well; he has allowed two or fewer goals in 12 of his past 13 starts.

"He's been there for us a lot of times when we've given up way too many chances," forward Gustav Nyquist said. "He's been there to make that big save for sure, and that's what he does: He makes that big save when you need it."

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