TAYLOR, Mich. – For the first time since slightly tearing a groin muscle on Jan. 10, Jimmy Howard returned to the ice, albeit for a short time Monday afternoon under the watchful eye of goaltending coach Jim Bedard at the Taylor Sportsplex.
“It was nice to be able to get out there, even though it was only for 15-20 minutes,” Howard said.
The injury came at a bad time for Howard, who hours earlier that day learned he had been selected as one of six goalies to participate in the NHL All-Star Game in Columbus.
Howard, who is among the league leaders in wins (16), goals-against average (2.11) and save percentage (.920), was injured early in the game in Washington and exited the ice on a stretcher.
With the Capitals on a power play in the opening minute, the Red Wings’ veteran goalie left his crease to settle a puck behind the net. Howard awkwardly lunged toward the goal in an attempt to make a save and then was unable to get up, requiring assistance from team trainers and medical personnel to get on the stretcher.
“To be honest with you I haven’t even watched it,” Howard said. “I don’t know if it was when my foot hit the post or when I extended. I heard something pop and found out the next day I had a tear.”
Howard’s original prognosis was 2-4 weeks, though he feared much worse at the time.
“Yeah, at first because I was in so much pain,” he said. “But after a week I was able to go up and down the stairs and everything like that again, so it was kind of nice.”
Howard made the trip to Florida with the team and plans to skate every day, however, he was reluctant to predict a timetable for a return to the lineup.
“Just basically did skating,” Howard said of Monday’s practice. “I haven’t been on the ice since the injury. Just trying to get my feet back under me right now. … I’m still a little ways away. Hopefully I keep making the right strides.”
The Wings are fortunate that rookie Petr Mrazek has been outstanding in the absence Howard and backup Jonas Gustavsson, who is getting close to a return from a separated shoulder suffered in November.
“Petr’s been doing a tremendous job,” Howard said. “It’s great that he’s playing well, it allows me to heal up and (not have to) possibly come back too early and then have another issue on our hands.”
Coacoh Mike Babcock said it’s unlikely that Gustavsson will be ready anytime soon, certainly not this week for games in Florida and Tampa Bay.
“I don’t think so. I haven’t heard anything about it,” Babcock said.”We got Tom McCollum here, so I assume … I don’t even deal with that. When they tell me I’ll know.”
While teammates headed for warmer climates during the break, Howard stayed behind to concentrate on his rehabilitation.
“We’re just going to keep the process going of treating it and working out and try to up the skating a little more each day,” Howard said. “We want to be cautious but at the same time we want to get back out there as quickly as possible.”