– Having started 17 straight games, Jimmy Howard
will get a well-deserved breather Sunday night, his first in nearly six weeks.
The Red Wings’ goalie, who arguably has been the team’s most consistent player through the first quarter of the season, will give way to backup Ty Conklin
when the Wings face-off against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center.
“I’m very excited, I mean, it will be nice to be in there and get some action,” said Conklin, who has a 1-2-0 record with a 3.33 goals-against average in three starts.
The biggest thing for him, Conklin said, is to maintain a focus level that can’t be emulated in practice.
“You always do extra in practice and try to treat practice like games,” he said. “I mean, that’s as much as you can do, really. It’s the mental stuff and getting prepared and staying focused for 60-minutes and getting into the flow of the game because things are going to be faster than they happen in practice.”
Conklin earned his first win and lone shutout of the season against the Avs, turning aside 29 shots in a 3-0 win at Pepsi Center on Oct. 8. Conklin’s last start came Oct. 25 at Columbus when Howard’s son was born.
“He had a shutout the last time we were in here, didn’t he?” coach Mike Babcock said, Saturday afternoon. “It’s important to get him in, and Howie’s played great and I think Conks will play great tomorrow. He played great last time we came in here.”
Howard has been absolutely magnificent for the Wings, posting a 15-5-1 record, a 1.83 GAA and a .931 save percentage. But even the league’s No. 1 goaltender, who leads in wins and goals-against, needs a break every now and again.
“It's good to get a little break, but me being the competitor, I like to be out there for the guys, but at the same time Ty needs to play,” said Howard, who started 25 straight games as a rookie in 2009-10. “It's important to our team he gets on the ice and does a great job.
“Last time he was here he played really well. When you're playing a lot, it's good to get a little mental break here and there, but I enjoy being out there every single night.”
And some people would love to see Howard somewhere else – the 2012 All-Star Game ballot. Howard's name does not appear among the 18 goalies on the fan ballot
A grassroots movement is underway to get Howard selected to play in the showcase in Ottawa at the end of January. Started by Detroit radio station WRIF-FM and deejay Meltdown, the campaign is picking up steam. (SEE VIDEO BELOW)
“Has he played well for us? Yes. Do we like him? Absolutely,” said Babcock, when asked about the ballot campaign. “Who’s the best goalie in the Western Conference? Who has the best numbers? Howard? Then maybe he should be on the ballot.
“I think as a player you worry about the things that you can control, and how you’re playing. You do good things on the ice and good things happen to you as far as notoriety goes. And yet to me, it would be a real honor for him. He was in the running for rookie of the year a couple of years ago, if I’m not mistaken. He’s been a very important player for us and he continues to get better, so good for him.”Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill