DETROIT – Jonas Gustavsson has a chance to do something Tuesday night that he hasn’t done in the NHL in nearly 21 months – win two games on back to back days.
Gustavsson, who stopped 28 shots in lifting Detroit to a 3-2 win at Boston on Monday, gets his first career home start for the Red Wings when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at Joe Louis Arena.
The last time Gustavsson recorded wins on back to back days was in late January 2012, then with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who captured a home and home series against the New York Islanders, including a 3-0 shutout at Air Canada Centre.
Gustavsson was thrown into the starting role Monday when starter Jimmy Howard aggravated a swollen left catching hand during pregame warm-ups. The hand was initially injured during Saturday’s home win against Philadelphia.
Howard skated briefly during the Red Wings’ option skate this morning. He said he hopes to be ready for Thursday’s road game against the undefeated Colorado Avalanche.
“It feels a lot better today,” Howard said. “I took some shots (today) with Jimmy (Bedard), everything was on the ice. No sense in hitting it and having my hands swell up to where it was before. So today was just doing movements in the crease and taking shots low.”
In his second season as the Red Wings’ backup, Gustavsson has struggled to stay healthy. Groin injuries forced him to miss most of the 2013 season and he began this season on injured reserve with another sore groin.
But coach Mike Babcock isn’t worried that back to back starts on consecutive days will be a detriment for Gustavsson.
“Obviously, last year was probably a nightmare for him,” Babcock said. “He couldn’t get himself healthy, as you mentioned with groin issues. The bottom line is you have to look after that as a goalie, you have to be available.
“This team, I mean, we need Howie to be what Howie is, so no different than (Columbus), they need (Sergei Bobrovsky) to do his job. If those guys can get 20 quality starts out of the other guy, than they’re way better goaltenders.”
HELM’S GETTING CLOSE: Center Darren Helm (lower back) said today that he’s getting pretty close to returning to the Red Wings’ lineup.
This, of course, is fantastic news, if the Wings can get a healthy Helm back for the first time since he suffered a sprained knee in San Jose in March 2012. He’s also dealt with a forearm laceration, which required emergency surgery, followed by persistent lower back pain.
“It’s looking good,” Helm said. “Things are rolling in the right direction. I’m happy with it.”
But Helm, won’t dare establish a timetable for his return this time.
“Not until I step on the ice do I want to put a date on it,” he said. “Until my name’s on a lineup sheet I’m not going to get that excited about it. When that day comes then we’ll talk about it.”
GARDEN PARTY: Brendan Smith and his brother Reilly, who plays for the Bruins, purchased a suite at TD Bank Garden on Monday for 19 family members, many of whom made the 15-hour trip from Nova Scotia.
For the Red Wings’ Smith, who sat out his second straight game as a healthy scratch, Monday was bittersweet. While he would much rather be in the lineup against his younger brother, Monday did give him the chance to catch up with family in the suite.
“I just have to stay positive,” Brendan said. “My grandfather had a funny quote for me yesterday, ‘If you didn’t have bad luck you wouldn’t have any luck at all.’ He’s trying to make me laugh and stay positive.”
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