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MacDonald sparkles in big Wings' win

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Joey MacDonald made 31 saves in winning his sixth straight game at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
DETROIT – Despite losing their All-Star goalie for the last two weeks, the Red Wings really couldn’t ask for better results out of their alternative plans.

Joey MacDonald, who began the month with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, won his sixth NHL game in the last 12 days, lifting the Wings to a thrilling 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks Sunday afternoon.

“Give Mac a ton of credit,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I don't think he had much action in the first period. Not as much in the third, but he had to do a good job for us in the second and he did.”

MacDonald has played superbly in relief of Jimmy Howard, who suffered a fractured right index finger in Vancouver on Feb. 2. The 32-year-old from Nova Scotia appeared in his first game after he was called up, replacing backup goalie Ty Conklin after one period in Edmonton.

And MacDonald hasn’t missed a minute since, stringing together a 6-1-1 record with a 1.66 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage.

“When you get called up you don’t think that you’re going to play, you think that you’re going to be sitting on the bench a little bit and you don’t realize how long it’s going to be,” he said. “But as a backup goalie that’s one thing, you can’t take a night off. If you’re not starting you have to be ready to play anytime if it’s first period, second period, whatever it is, you’ve got to be ready.”

But life isn’t as simple as one would think for MacDonald, who said Sunday that he’s living out of a suitcase these days, staying at a downtown hotel and eating plenty of restaurant food.

“Just staying at the hotel and going day by day,” said MacDonald, who has a home in Grand Rapids with his wife and their two sons. “It’s whatever it is, whatever happens. Last year I spent a lot of time in the hotel and things went really well, so we’re just going to keep it like that.”

MacDonald was particularly sharp in the second period when the Sharks fired 19 shots, including four from defenseman Dan Boyle and three each by center Logan Couture and defenseman Brent Burns.

The Wings had built a 2-0 lead midway through the second period on goals by Henrik Zetterberg and Drew Miller. But a fluky goal by Couture sliced Detroit’s lead in half. Despite out-playing the Sharks, the goal didn’t faze the Wings.

“We can’t dominate every period, every shift,” Zetterberg said. “We play against pretty good teams out there. So, there were shifts when they were dominating and you’ve just to stay focused and calm. We know we will have our chances. We’ve just got to capitalize on ours.”
The Wings reestablished their two-goal lead when they exploited a Sharks’ third-period turnover in the neutral zone, which led to Darren Helm’s second goal in his last 29 games.

Helm tipped the puck away from San Jose center Torrey Mitchell and Miller corralled the loose puck and headed in the opposite direction. Skating down the left wing, Miller delivered a pass to Helm who trailed the play into the slot and fired a slap shot for the eventual game-winner that stretched the Wings’ NHL-record home winning streak to 23 straight games.

“Impressive,” Helm said. “It's one thing that we all believe in this dressing room that it’s a pretty impressive feat that we've accomplished so far. We don't want to stop there, there’s lots of big games coming up. We've got a tough one against Vancouver, Chicago first obviously, then Vancouver at home. It's exciting coming to the rink and having our fans going like they're going, getting so excited, nice and loud every night with the way that we've been playing at home. We love playing here right now, we always love playing here, and it's extra special right now.”

Howard is expected to get his first start, since suffering the injury, this Tuesday at Chicago. But now the front office has a personnel decision to make, who to send down, Conklin or MacDonald?

Following Sunday’s spectacular performance in which he turned aside 31 shots, MacDonald said he’s fine with whatever general manager Ken Holland and the coaching staff decides.

“It’s out of my control,” MacDonald said. “Whatever decisions that they make I’ll be happy with it. To come up here and play as much as I did – all but one period – it looks good on me if I’m the second guy or the third guy. There’s not a whole lot I can do now.

“It’s in their hands and if I do get sent down I’ll do the same thing down there; they’re fighting for a playoff spot there, I’ll go down and play and I’ll get a chance back here some time.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

2011-12 Red Wings Home Winning STREAK
Nov. 5, 2011 5-0 J. HOWARD (22) N. Kronwall
Nov. 8, 2011 5-2 J. Howard (24) J. Franzen
Nov. 11, 2011 3-0 J. Howard (24) D. Miller
Nov. 12, 2011 5-2 J. Howard (25) J. Franzen
Nov. 23, 2011 5-3 J. Howard (19) P. Datsyuk
Nov. 26, 2011 4-1 J. Howard (18) H. Zetterberg
Nov. 30, 2011 4-2 J. Howard (21) T. Holmstrom
Dec. 8, 2011 5-2 J. Howard (30) T. Holmstrom
Dec. 10, 2011 7-1 J. Howard (29) H. Zetterberg
Dec. 17, 2011 8-2 J. Howard (27) N. Kronwall
Dec. 27, 2011 3-2 J. Howard (29) N. Kronwall
Dec. 31, 2011 3-0 J. Howard (31) J. Franzen
Jan. 12, 2012 3-2 (SO) J. Howard (25) H. Zetterberg
jan. 14, 2012 3-2 (OT) J. Howard (25) T. Bertuzzi
jan. 16, 2012 5-0 J. Howard (27) H. Zetterberg
jan. 21, 2012 3-2 (SO) J. Howard (17) V. Filppula
jan. 23, 2012 3-1 J. Howard (21) J. Franzen
feb. 8, 2012 4-2 J. MacDonald (15) D. Miller
feb. 10, 2012 2-1 J. MacDonald (29) T. Bertuzzi
Feb. 12, 2012 4-3 J. MacDonald (26) J. Franzen
Feb. 14, 2012 3-1 J. MacDonald (20) B. Stuart
Feb. 17, 2012 2-1 J. MacDonald (20) P. Datsyuk
Feb. 19, 2012 3-2 J. MacDonald (31) D. Helm
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