Red Wings looking for Jimmy Howard to regain starting role in net

The good news for the Detroit Red Wings is that they have a trio of goaltenders they can play whenever, which is a growing trend for many teams around the NHL these days, particularly due to the chances of injuries.

The bad news is that there’s uncertainty with every one of those goalies for the Wings. Though, it appears that the team has their eyes set on veteran Jimmy Howard earning back his starting job, should he stay healthy.

Detroit goalie coach Jeff Salajko recently talked about the Wings’ rotation of netminders and how there seems to be a mutual understanding of hoping Howard can play the bulk of the games for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

Salajko thinks the best case scenario is having youngsters Petr Mrazek and Jared Coreau sit second and third respectively on the goalie depth chart moving forward.

“We’re very comfortable with Jared as a third,” goaltending coach Jeff Salajko told the Free Press during development camp in Traverse City in early July. “I have no problem with him being the backup goalie, either. If we can keep Jimmy Howard healthy to play 50-55 games, I was comfortable with Jared in a role like that. But we obviously have Petr back – Vegas didn’t have interest in him, so I’m hoping he comes in with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.”

Howard, 33, has been limited to just 63 games over the last two seasons largely due to injury. However, last season was statistically his most productive when he posted career-best marks in save percentage (.927) and goals against average (2.10), albeit in only 26 games played.

NHL: Petr Mrazek 1
Feb 15, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek (34) displays a patch on his sweater for owner Mike Ilitch in the third period against the St. Louis Blues at Joe Louis Arena. Mike Ilitch passed away February 10, 2017. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Ironically, his best season came during Mrazek’s worst season of his young career. After compiling a .920 save percentage and 2.29 GAA through his first 94 games with Detroit (2012-16), the 25-year-old Mrazek took a noticeable nose dive in both categories, seeing the save percentage dip to barely over .900 and the GAA climbed over 3.00.

It’s sort of have forced the Red Wings to use the “hot hand” mentality when picking a goalie. But it appears that they are opting with the veteran Howard. The long-term hope is that it will cause a trickle-down effect with Mrazek in that he plays with a chip, given a) his recent struggles, b) being exposed by the team to the Vegas expansion team (citing attitude issues with the young goalie), and c) being in his final year of his current contract.

Speaking of contracts, the Wings are also financially obligated to be rolling out one of these two every night. Both Howard and Mrazek combined will be making close to $9.3 million this season; Howard is signed through the 2018-19 season.

Detroit will also consider 25-year-old Jared Coreau into the equation. A small sample size, Coreau played in 14 games for the Red Wings last season and pitched a couple shutouts despite the overall numbers not looking too pretty. He did however help lead the Wings’ AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins to their second Calder Cup in the last five seasons.

The first of eight exhibitions for the Red Wings begin on September 19. The season opener is tabbed for Thursday, October 5 at home in the newly-minted Little Caesars Arena against the Minnesota wild.

Written by Alex Muller

MSU Graduate. Just a city boy born and raised in south Detroit. Baseball is life, a pitcher at heart. Freelance writer for MIPrepZone (News-Herald, Press & Guide).

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