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Wings place Conklin on waivers

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Ty Conklin was placed on waivers Monday afternoon. He has a 3-5-0 record with a 3.40 GAA this season for the Red Wings. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
DETROIT – Now that Jimmy Howard is ready to return to the Red Wings’ lineup, the team decided Monday to place backup goalie Ty Conklin on waivers.

If Conklin isn’t claimed by another NHL team by noon Tuesday, he will be assigned to the Wings’ AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids.

“I think Ty Conklin needs to play,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He hasn't really got it going. His starts have been sporadic and I think his play has probably been sporadic. He's played some good games and played some games not so good.”

Conklin was on the ice Monday morning at Joe Louis Arena, but was called off prior to the start of practice. He left the arena without addressing his Wings’ teammates before practice ended.

“Knowing Ty, he’s going to go and work his rear end off,” said Howard, who is expected to start Tuesday night in Chicago. “He’s also excited to play in some games, too.”
The decision to send Conklin down was made easier by the outstanding job that third-string goalie Joey MacDonald has turned in since being recalled Feb. 3.
Meanwhile, Conklin, 35, has struggled and was pulled from his last start when he surrendered three first-period goals in Edmonton on Feb. 4. He has a 3-5-0 record and a 3.40 goals-against average in his second stint with the Wings.

“He wants to play. He needs to play,” Holland said. “With the injury to Jimmy Howard it was probably a chance for him to go on a run. The first game he gets in there and gives up three goals on nine shots. Mike Babcock made the change.”

Since then, the 32-year-old MacDonald has been outstanding in relief of Howard, who suffered a fractured right index finger during a 4-3 shootout win at Vancouver on Feb. 2. MacDonald has a 6-1-1 record with a 1.66 GAA and a .934 save percentage.

The Wings and MacDonald swept a six-game homestand that concluded with Sunday's 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks. The win also extended the team's home winning streak to 23 straight games, which is an NHL record.

“Joey shut the door in Edmonton, they scored in the very last minute and we lost in a shootout,” Holland said. “He lost in Phoenix and since he's really taken the ball and run. That's what pro sports are all about.”

But with Howard set face the Blackhawks, and MacDonald’s emergence, Holland had to decide between keeping MacDonald or Conklin.

In the end, MacDonald was an obvious choice to remain with the club.

“It's the old what have you done for me lately, and Joey MacDonald has been an incredible story for us the last two weeks,” Holland said. “Joey MacDonald is in a groove right now. We need Ty Conklin playing. We still think he's still got good hockey in him. We've seen it this year.”

Conklin served as a Wings’ backup during the 2008-09 season when he posted perhaps the best campaign of his nine-season NHL career. That year he was 25-11-2 with a 2.51 GAA and a career-best six shutouts.

This season, he earned his 17th career shutout in his first start, beating Colorado, 3-0, by stopping all 29 shots that he faced. But he’s allowed no fewer than three goals in five of his last seven starts.
Howard is expected to play Tuesday with added padding in his blocker to protect his broken finger. He’ll also use a fabricated stick with a notch cut out of the paddle, which will make it easier for Howard to grip.

“I use the one that I used today with the way that it’s cut-out, the notch isn’t as big so my hand isn’t as far down on the paddle,” said Howard, who along with Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, has a league-best 32 wins. “The pain level isn’t really a factor anymore, it’s more so just being comfortable out there and using the stick, we’re just trying to figure out some things to make it better.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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