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Notes: Goalie Jimmy Howard ready to return to the NHL

Boston Bruins are 8-3-0 under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

BOSTON - It's been a long time but it appears Jimmy Howard is ready to get back in an NHL game.

The Red Wings recalled Howard from his conditioning stint with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins Wednesday.

"I think it'll be good to get Jimmy back, get him back playing to the way he was at the beginning of the year," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "When he's been healthy, he's been an excellent goaltender this year for us. Hopefully he can get back. Obviously he's been out a while, it's not going to be easy but I know he's been working real hard with (goaltending coach) Jeff Salajko, he's worked real hard now in two different stints to get himself back into a good spot. The reports I heard from Grand Rapids is that he played excellent last night so I think that stint served its purpose and then when he gets back here, hopefully gets playing at that same level."

Howard, 32, started two games with the Griffins, including Tuesday night's 21-save shutout of the San Antonio Rampage.

In his first start this past Saturday, Howard made 31 saves in a 5-2 victory over the Texas Stars.

"I think when you work with goalie coaches, certainly it gets you back in a spot doing those types of drills where you can get your game back in order but until you get in those live situations, and the problem is when you're coming back off an injury you have three goalies in practice, it's hard to even replicate that in practice," Blashill said. "So that's where I think the games became critical down there, regardless of the different level. I thought they became real important factors for him."

Howard originally suffered a knee injury on Dec. 20 in Tampa.

Howard had a previous conditioning stint with the Griffins on Feb. 8 and 10 but had to leave the second game in the middle of the third period after feeling a tweak in his knee.

In his four starts with the Griffins, Howard was 3-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.

Among goaltenders who have played a minimum of 15 NHL games, Howard leads with league with a .934 save percentage and is second with a 1.96 goals-against average.

In Howard's absence, Petr Mrazek has stepped up and improved his performance, starting the last eight games.

While the Wings want to get Howard going again, they also want Mrazek to keep his game at a high level.

"We'll take all that stuff day by day," Blashill said. "The biggest thing for us is we're going to need real good goaltending here every night in order to give ourselves the best chance to win."

As for Jared Coreau, who has not started since Feb. 12 at Minnesota, Blashill said he's pleased with his performance.

"I think Jared's done a real good job," Blashill said. "I think he's done as much as we could have asked him to do. We need him to continue to develop the way that he's developed over the last couple years. I think he's done a real good job. He's been a real positive thing for our team and our organization."

BRUINS IN THE HUNT: The Boston Bruins are currently third in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference with 74 points in 66 games.

The Bruins made a coaching change, firing Claude Julien and replacing him with Bruce Cassidy on Feb. 7.

Boston has gone 8-3-0 with Cassidy at the helm.

"They've got a real good team here," Blashill said. "They went through a stretch of playing real good under coach Julien. I think with their new coach, they've played very well here in the last little bit. I'm sure they've executed at a high level. I think every night in this league is a big-time battle, every night's a tight, tight game. I'm sure they've been able to win a lot of those tight games. We know it's going to be a hard battle here again tonight. We're going to have to play our best."

The Bruins will be without forward Ryan Spooner as he has a concussion.

Austin Czarina was recalled from Providence to take Spooner's place in the lineup.

Brad Marchand leads the Bruins with 30 goals and 68 points in 66 games.

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