|Jimmy Howard says he's healthy again and ready to finish the final week of the regular-season. (Photo by Getty Images) |
– Jimmy Howard
said he’s healthy enough to return to work, but following Thursday’s hour-long practice, the Red Wings’ No. 1 goalie was no closer to knowing if he would play in Friday’s home game against the Nashville Predators.
“When am I going to play?” said Howard, repeating a reporter’s question. “I’m sure we’ll find out here in the next five-minutes when (coach Mike Babcock) comes and stands in front of you guys. … I would love to be out there tomorrow night, but if he has a different plan from what he said the other day, you know, I have to respect that.”
Babcock was less forthcoming, saying that he would first meet with goalie coach Jim Bedard before making a final decision on Friday’s starter.
“I don't know for sure,” Babcock said. “I'm a big believer in having a guy ready before he gets into a situation like this, so I'll talk to Jimmy B here today and we'll decide what's going on.”
Howard has missed the last four games after he relapsed from a strain groin that forced him to miss three games earlier this month. Since Howard returned from missing eight games with a fractured right index finger, the Wings are 4-9-2. In that time, Howard has won once – in a 6-0 shellacking of Minnesota on March 2.
Groin injuries, especially with a goalie, can flair up again, damaging the adductor muscles, which for goaltenders, who rely on hip and pelvis movement during games, can be problematic.
And it’s for that reason that the Wings are taking every precaution not to rush Howard back into the lineup before his groin is completely healed.
“I think they are being extra, extra, extra careful,” Babcock said. “I don't have anything to do with this. My big thing is, is he ready to play or not ready to play? So I'll talk to Jimmy B. I didn't even watch him today, I had lots of other things to watch. I'll talk to Jimmy B and we'll probably make a decision probably after the skate tomorrow morning.”
If Howard doesn’t play Friday, then Ty Conklin
will get his fifth straight start in net, and Howard’s next start would be pushed back to Sunday when the Wings host the Florida Panthers.
“I’m very eager, I mean, I haven’t played a lot here in the last month and a half, and I’m sick and tired of watching them on TV, so I’m excited to get back out onto the ice,” Howard said.
Despite Wednesday night’s 4-2 loss at Columbus, Howard sees the fact that the majority of the team’s walking wounded have returned, or will be back in action before the start of the playoffs next month.
“It’s great, you know, we pretty much have our whole team back now, except for Helmer and Patty, so we have to get ready here for the playoffs,” Howard said. “We’ve just got to go out there and play our game and put in a full effort for the full 60-minutes and not what we displayed last night, so it’s going to be key for us in the next five games, just going out there and taking take of business and really compete for a full 60-minutes.”
In the final week of the regular-season, the Wings will face five playoff-contenders in Nashville, Florida, St. Louis, New Jersey and Chicago. Fortunately for the Wings they only have one road game remaining – next Wednesday against the Western Conference-leading Blues.
Playing on the road has been tedious for the Wings this season. It’s just the second time in 22 seasons that the Wings have posted a losing campaign on the road. The last time the Wings posted a losing road record was in 1998-99 when that squad finished 16-20-5.
The Wings are 16-21-3 on the road this season.
“Everyone already knows what happened, it wasn’t good enough and I think a lot of us in here felt embarrassed walking out of the rink,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall
said. “But tomorrow night is going to be a big game for us, right away after a tough loss for us last night. The way we played we’d obviously like to respond and play a lot better.”
Detroit is currently the No. 4 seed in the West with the Predators lurking one-point behind in the standings.
“They’ve always been very structured, but now it feels like they have even more fire-power up front than maybe in the past,” Kronwall said, of the Preds. “They’ve’ added some big pieces to their club, and they’ve been rolling all season long, and they’ve a very tough team to go up against, especially when they have (Pekka) Rinne back there, who can win games on his own for them.”Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose