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Howard earns 12th career shut out

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Jimmy Howard makes one of his 33 saves in posting his first shut out of the season in a 4-0 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday. (Photo by Dave Reginek)

DETROIT – They had to have it.

Riding a dubious five-game winless streak into Saturday’s game with Central Division rival Nashville, the heat was on for Jimmy Howard and the Red Wings.

“We put everything to rest there,” Howard said. “Things weren’t going our way. We weren’t really paying attention to detail, and tonight we got the performance from every single one of us.”

With goals from four different players and a 33 save performance by Howard, the Red Wings posted a 4-0 victory against the Predators.

The Red Wings built a 2-0 lead Saturday, but 2-0 leads haven’t actually been all that kind to Detroit this season. The Wings are now 4-3-0 when taking a 2-0 lead.

“When you haven't won, it doesn't matter what the score is, the lead's never safe,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It's just a confidence thing. Confidence in pro sports comes and goes in a hurry, so this is a big win for us today.”

The Wings can certainly enjoy the win, but in less than 22 hours they will welcome in one of the league’s top teams when the Vancouver Canucks visit Joe Louis Arena.

Drew Miller, Tomas Tatar, Niklas Kronwall and Daniel Cleary all scored for the Wings, who improved their season record to 8-7-3.

The shutout was Howard’s first of the season and 12th of his career. Meanwhile, it was the sixth time in 21 career games against Detroit, that Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has surrendered four or more goals in a game.

Other than his spectacular second-period outing against the Los Angeles Kings two weeks ago, it may have been Howard’s best overall game of the season. But he didn’t feel comfortable in accepting all of the kudos.

“Shut outs are sort of … they get credited to the goalie, but they’re more of a team aspect,” Howard said. “I think it’s more of a team stat.”

But Howard definitely wanted that goose egg, which was almost spoiled late when Predators winger Patric Hornqvist moved in for a point blank shot. But Howard flashed a leg pad and kicked the puck to safety.

“To be honest, the thing that flashed in my mind was ‘There goes the shut out,’ ” Howard said, with a laugh. “It was just a last ditch effort, trying to get a piece of the equipment on the puck.”

But Howard was no joke to his teammates.

“I thought he played a great game,” said Cleary, whose power-play goal capped the scoring at 11:48 of the third period. “We count on him to play like that every night and he does. I think the save at the end, big toe save, was huge. He wanted the shutout and he earned it.”

NOTEBOOK: The CBC’s Elliotte Friedman suggested Saturday night that realignment is back on the table, and that the Red Wings are headed back to the Eastern Conference in a four conference alignment.

According to Friedman, the Wings would be in “Conference 2” along with Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto.

As news of this latest proposal spread through the Wings’ dressing room, players were genuinely excited for the change.

“Us going to the East, that would be a no-brainer,” Kronwall said. “Home-and-home with each team, if that's the case, would be great for the game. That way all the fans get to see the Crosbys, the Datsyuks and the Zetterbergs.”

Less travel and fewer sleepier mornings for Wings’ fans is also a key component to the proposal, Howard said.

“We’ve traveled back and forth, across the United States quite a bit,” he said. “To move to the Eastern I think that would be a lot of fun to play a lot of games in the Eastern Time Zone. It would be great for our fans too, not having to stay up until all hours of the night to watch us.”

THREE STARS: 3, Drew Miller, DET (1 goal); 2, Niklas Kronwall, DET (1 goal, 2 assists); 1, Jimmy Howard, DET (33 saves).

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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