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Howard preserves Wings' shutout in relief

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Jonas Gustavsson made eight saves during his one-period of action Monday night. He did not return for the second, complaining of dizziness. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – If it weren’t for bad luck, sometimes the Red Wings would have no luck at all this season as another key player was struck by a puzzling injury Monday night.

Backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson made eight saves before exiting the game against the Vancouver Canucks when he experienced dizziness during the first intermission. He left the game and drove himself to the Detroit Medical Center where he was checked out and later released.

Nothing in the first period suggested that Gustavsson was injured or suffered a hit above the shoulders. Still, the Red Wings managed to manufacture a 2-0 victory on a pair of Justin Abdelkader goals while Gustavsson and Jimmy Howard made a combined 24 saves.

Howard, who played the last two games after returning to the lineup from a sprained MCL, entered the scoreless game at the start of the second period. He said he was told by coaches during the first intermission to prepare himself to finish the game.

“Well, sometimes it’s a crapshoot,” said Howard, who made 16 stops. “You never really know until you get in there. Some nights like that it can go your way, other nights it can go in the complete opposite direction. Each time's different. You just gotta be ready the best of your capabilities.”

Howard was credited with the shutout, his third of the season.

The last time Red Wings goalies combined for a shutout win was Oct. 27, 2001 when Manny Legace – who left the game on a stretcher – and Dominik Hasek blanked the Predators, 1-0, at Nashville.

After playing three games in four nights, the Red Wings will use Tuesday as an off day. According to Wings coach Mike Babcock, Gustavsson is fine and expected to practice on Wednesday before the team heads to Florida for a two-game set against the Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning that will take the league into the Olympic break.

“I think he’s fine,” Babcock said of Gustavsson. “They told me he was fine so we don’t need anybody.”

Gustavsson has been stellar, when healthy, this season. Before Monday, the veteran netminder, who is among six Red Wings on Sweden’s Olympic roster, has compiled a 13-4-3 record to go with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. Unfortunately, this is the fourth time that Gustavsson has been injured this season. He’s already missed 16 games with groin and neck injuries.

Abdelkader gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead when his wrist shot from the top of the left circle looked to clip a Canucks’ defenseman and redirect over goalie Eddie Lack’s right shoulder. Abdelkader’s second goal was an empty-netter with 16 seconds left in regulation.

Moments later, David Booth skated in alone on a breakaway but Jakub Kindl hooked the Canucks’ forward from behind. Booth was awarded a penalty shot with 15:19 left in the middle frame but Howard stood big in the net and thwarted the scoring chance.

The Wings’ No. 1 goalie was also involved in a collision that he was lucky to escape unharmed when Alexander Edler crashed head-first into the net.

“Nothing like a penalty shot and getting run over to get you into the game,” Howard said. “It was a huge two points for us. We just gotta keep this rolling into the Olympic break.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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