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Osgood needs to ramp up his game now

by Mike G. Morreale / Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood knows it's more about how you finish than how you start the regular-season.

But by his own admission, he may have to rethink that strategy for 2009-10.

Saturday, Osgood was in goal for the Red Wings' 4-3 shootout loss in New Jersey. The game was Osgood's fourth start in 13 games. For the season, the 37-year-old veteran is 6-5-5 with a 2.75 goals-against average and .896 save percentage -- not scintillating numbers, but not too bad either.

"For me, personally, I've got to get to the level I've been in the playoffs for this team right now," Osgood said. "Last year we were so far ahead I didn't have to, but the position we're in now, I've got to get to that level now, and continue it through the rest of the regular season. I mean, we're going to get to a point here where there're 30 games left and it's going to be a dogfight. I've got to start stealing games and playing like I did in the playoffs."

It's hard to argue the fact that when Osgood is in playoff form, there are few better. During Detroit's run to the Stanley Cup in 2008, Osgood finished 14-4 with three shutouts, a 1.55 GAA and .930 save percentage in 19 appearances. Even last spring, the three-time Stanley Cup champion performed admirably with a 15-8 mark, two shutouts, 2.01 GAA and .926 save percentage in 23 games.

For his 16-season career, "Ozzie," whose hockey hero growing up was Edmonton's Grant Fuhr, sports a 74-49 record, 2.09 GAA and .916 save percentage in 129 Stanley Cup playoff games. If Osgood is able to find the postseason magic in the regular season, the Wings should be primed to make a nice run down the stretch with both he and Jimmy Howard (8-5-1, 2.55 GAA, .910 save percentage) in the fold.

Osgood said he'd like to start playing more after missing much of November with an illness -- about the same time when Howard went on a little streak to assume the No. 1 role.

"It's awesome for Jimmy," Osgood said. "It was a blessing in disguise when I got sick and Jimmy got to go in and play real well. We're going to need Jimmy to be there. We've got a lot of games. I'm behind Jimmy 100 percent just as the rest of the team is."

A year ago, the Wings had pretty much wrapped up a playoff spot by the time Christmas rolled around. This season, with the departure of several key components in the off-season and the injuries the club has had to withstand, the Wings sit ninth in the Western Conference with 14 wins and 33 points.

"I just have to keep myself ready," Osgood said. "Ever since I was sick, I haven't played a heck of a lot, but I played a lot early. You obviously would like to play to get into a rhythm, but at the same time you have to stay ready regardless. It's all about winning and right now we're out of the playoffs."

Osgood, who's averaged 45.3 games per season since entering the League in 1993-94, knows each year is different so he'll have to adjust according to the current situation. And he's fine with that.

"I don't really put a number on (the number of games I'd like to play)," he said. "For me it's different at this point. We're already almost 30 games in so the mentality I have to get myself at now is that playoff level.

"It's a different year so you have to think differently."

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