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Notebook: Howard has Jackets' number

by Dave Burke / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Since Jimmy Howard became the full time starter last season, the Red Wings goaltender has had good success against the Columbus Blue Jackets, posting an 8-1-0 record.

Asked why he thought he did so well against the division rivals from Ohio, Howard said, “Well, they’re very competitive games and always coming down to the wire with a shootout or overtime; Just had to make timely saves.”

Howard can continue his personal success Friday when the Red Wings host the Jackets, who are on a two game losing streak, but only eight points from a playoff spot.

Howard has been consistently winning games, going 3-1 in his last four, but would like to do so more efficiently. His wins are great; he’s in a four way tie for first overall in the NHL with 25, but Howard’s goals-against and save percentage have suffered recently with a 2.87 GAA and .904 save percentage.

Those stats are mediocre, but Wings coach Mike Babcock thinks the problem is very simple and correctable.

“Only one thing affects goaltenders and one thing you worry about and that’s stopping the puck. There’s only one of them, that’s his main focus,” Babcock said. “I thought Howie did well last game against 15 scoring chances. They’re usually around 12. We have got to be better in net and on the backend and be more structured.” 

Another reason for the increase in chances could be the void left by shot blocking defenseman Brad Stuart, who, according to Babcock, is still a few weeks away from returning to the lineup with a broken jaw.

There is no question that the talent is there for Howard.  When taking over the reins of the starting job in 2009-10, Howard responded with a fantastic rookie campaign going 37-15-10 with a .924 save percentage, 2.26 goals against average and 3 shutouts.  He was one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy, given to the NHL’s best rookie.

HEADHUNTERS: Stuart is one of the unfortunate players victimized by a blind-side hit to the head this season. The NHL took a tougher stance last season by implementing regulations that penalize offenders with a five-minute major penalty, an automatic game misconduct as well as supplemental discipline, if the league sees fit.

Babcock was asked if this rule would take physicality out of the game he disagreed.

“I disagree with that 100 percent,” he said. “If you hit him in the head you hit him in the head … the leagues doing everything you can. When star players get hurt, the league gets brought to attention and that’s a positive, not a negative.”

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