SAN JOSE, Calif. – Jonas Gustavsson has 96 career NHL starts since arriving in North America three seasons ago as an undrafted free agent with the Maple Leafs.
Goalie - DET
GAA: 2.65 | SVP: 0.885
But tonight, the Swedish import expects to be just as nervous in his first start with the Red Wings as he always was in Toronto.
“I'm always nervous before I play, but not to a point where it's a bad thing,” said Gustavsson, who will start against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion. “I like to feel that nervousness. It means that there's something going on and that makes me sharp. So that's the kind of feeling you like as a goalie.”
Gustavsson has had a tough go at it with his new team, battling a sore groin basically since he tweaked it during a relief appearance in the season-opening loss at St. Louis.
The 28-year-old is 0-0-1 with a 2.64 goals-against average when called upon to relieve starter Jimmy Howard twice this season. Gustavsson’s even chipped in with some offense, picking up a secondary assist on Pavel Datsyuk’s highlight reel goal at Nashville on Feb. 19.
Tonight’s start probably would be tougher if it were his first action with his new team, he said. But it’s not.
Still, an injury that has lingered for nearly the entire first half of the season, isn’t ideal, either.
“Of course that's probably not the best situation, but that's the way it is,” Gustavsson said. “Through your career you're going to have different challenges. Just got to find a way to handle them and stay positive. For me that is in the past and I'm just trying to look forward to the game tonight.”
Obviously, coach Mike Babcock is eager to see what Gustavsson can bring to the Wings.
“I think it’s important that your starting goalie doesn’t have to play every night,” Babcock said. “It’s a real good opportunity for him. We need a win on the road and he’s capable of doing that so get in there and play like you can.”
Gustavsson will face the Sharks for the first time in his three-plus season career. Though the Sharks have had their struggles of late, Gustavsson said tonight is very important for the Wings.
“They're a talented team, tough challenge for us,” he said. “That's what we like. Find a way to bounce back from yesterday and get a win.”
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