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Healthy Monster returns as Bruins backup

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Captain Zdeno Chara congratulates backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson following Boston's 4-2 win against the Minnesota Wild on Nov. 19. That was Gustavsson's last appearance for the Bruins. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – Not only did Jonas Gustavsson lose his role as back up with the Red Wings this season, it seems the veteran netminder also lost part of his giant identity.

Known to former teammates as Monster, the 6-foot-4 Gustavsson now goes by a fowl name.

Seems there can only be one alpha male in the Bruins’ dressing room, and his name is Zdeno Chara.

When a reporter asked the Bruins 6-foot-9 defenseman about Monster’s contributions since joining the team, Chara stopped him and said, jokingly, “I know you asked that question of a few guys. I’ve been called Monster on this team. So now it’s Goose” for Gustavsson.

All kidding aside, Monster, er, Goose, has been outstanding as the Bruins’ backup to Tuukka Rask. Since joining the Bruins in October, the 31-year-old Gustavsson – who spent the previous three seasons with the Red Wings – is 4-1-0 with a 2.20 goals-against average.

“He’s been so stable and so consistent for us,” Chara said. “I think the record shows that he’s very consistent and up to the challenge to play strong games for us. He’s come up big in a lot of them and made some big saves. He’s very professional, very consistent, a very humble guy. It’s great to have that.”

Coming up big when the team needs it most was never an issue for Gustavsson in Detroit. He compiled a 21-10-6 mark and a 2.67 GAA in 41 games played for the Red Wings.

His downfall was the number of soft-tissue injuries that plagued his time with the Wings. Then came a separated shoulder that caused him to miss 37 games last season.

“The first season was a lockout season and I got a little injury early in that year and came back,” Gustavsson said. “But the season was only, I don’t know, three months, and we had to kind of chase a playoff spot. So it wasn’t really a lot of room for me to play there. The second season I felt good when I played … there were a lot of injuries. Maybe not big injuries, but a lot of small hip and groin injuries, and obviously by last year I had a big shoulder injury. So, yeah, a lot of different injuries and other than that I felt pretty good. I enjoyed my time here and I’m thankful for the three years, but obviously I’d like to see what would have happened if I could have stayed healthy.”

Even if health wasn’t a concern, it’s unlikely he would have remained in the Red Wings’ long-term plans, not with Petr Mrazek beginning to push for more playing time.

Now Gustavsson fills a void for the Bruins. While the workload isn’t ideal – so far he’s only appeared in 20 percent of the Bruins’ games – he’s happy for the opportunity.

“You obviously want to play and I think that goes for all players and goalies,” Gustavsson said. “I’m happy with the start so far. I’ve been playing pretty much once a week, so whatever the situation is you have to find a way to prepare yourself to be ready, whether that’s playing back-to-back games or playing once every third week. You have to find what’s working for you so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Boston coach Claude Julien wouldn’t reveal his starting goaltender after the team’s sparsely attended morning skate on Wednesday. But since Gustavsson was the first off the ice, it’s likely the career backup will start against his former team when the Atlantic Division rivals faceoff tonight at Joe Louis Arena.

Should Gustavsson draw the start tonight – it would be his first regular-season start as an opponent at The Joe – former teammates Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan know they must get him moving side to side in his crease if they are to expose the big netminder.

“It's tough to get the puck by him,” Sheahan said. “Just got to get him moving, get him going side to side and try to get it up in the top half of the net.”

Over the last four games, shots on goal have been on the rise for the Red Wings, who are 3-0-1 in the span while averaging 31 shots. Detroit averaged 25.3 shots in the previous 17 games (8-8-1).

“He’s a great goalie, big size, good movement,” Tatar said of Gustavsson. “Obviously (he) doesn’t like traffic, like any goalie. We just have to do what we did last few games and I feel we’ll have success.”

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