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Svelte Howard is quicker in Wings' net

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Last season, Jimmy Howard led the Red Wings with a 23-13-11 record and a 2.44 GAA and two shutout victories. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT Jimmy Howard is looking forward to putting in a full 60-minutes plus tonight when the Red Wings host the Pittsburgh Penguins in an exhibition game at Joe Louis Arena.

Howard is excited to play the whole game as well as the league’s mandated sudden-death overtime that the Wings and Pens will engage in regardless of the score after regulation.

“This time of the year is about just getting the rust off, getting your timing and feeling back,” he said. “It’ll be nice to get into a full game.”

Howard came to training camp looking rather svelte. He says he lost 12 pounds in the off-season, adding that the weight loss is making a marked difference in his performance on the ice.

“Yeah, I feel great out there,” Howard said. “Just goes to show that when you put the work in in the summertime it pays off out there.”

The 31-year-old Howard declined to talk specifically about his weight loss and his desire to drop the unwanted pounds, though he did hint at a possible medical condition.

“There’s a couple different variables,” he said. “Nothing bad in a sense, just some things were going wrong inside my body.”

Last season, Howard missed 10 games with a slight tear in a groin muscle. Before the injury, the veteran goalie was having an all-star season – literally. He was named to the All-Star game roster on the same day he was injury, Jan. 10 at Washington.

Two seasons ago, Howard struggled with consistency. He also missed several games with flu-like symptoms, including the last two games of the Stanley Cup playoff series against the Boston Bruins.

Howard is third on the Wings’ all-time career list with 175 wins. His 2.42 goals-against average is a franchise best among Wings goalies with more than 180 career starts.

Entering his seventh full NHL season, Howard understands that he must play significantly better than Petr Mrazek during the preseason if he’s to win back his starting role.

The weight loss will certainly help the veteran.

“I feel a lot lighter, a lot quicker out there,” he said. “Especially for a goalie, you feel like you’re getting into position a lot faster.”

Coach Jeff Blashill already sees vast improvement in Howard’s quickness.

“The backdoor save he made in the Red-White game where it was a rebound in front and he was able to scramble from his knees and get to the backdoor, that's a lighter, quicker Jimmy Howard and I think that's a great thing," Blashill said.

Howard’s excited to play his first five-minute 3-on-3 overtime tonight. The league is transitioning this season from 4 on 4 with the hopes of seeing more tied games decided in overtime instead of the shootout.

Ultimately, it’s the goalies that will take the statistical brunt of an increased scoring boom in the new overtime format, but Howard is still excited for the change.

“I definitely am looking forward to it,” said Howard who has a 21-29 all-time shootout record. “From watching it the other night (in Chicago) it was crazy. It seemed like we didn’t even touch the puck and then the next thing you know it’s over. So, you better capitalize on your chance or you don’t know if you’re going to get another one.”

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