The roller coaster ride that has been the Detroit Red Wings‘ 2013 season hit another low point Saturday with a 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Despite outshooting the Blue Jackets, the Wings managed just two goals, and were doubled up by a Columbus team that made Jimmy Howard look subpar at best.
Howard has started all eight games for the Wings this season, and could use a night off if Detroit wants him at the top of the game the rest of the season. Unfortunately, that really isn’t an option for the team right now. With backup goaltenders Jonas Gustavsson and Joey MacDonald injured and the team unwilling to throw former first round pick Tom McCollum into a high-pressure situation, it will be at least a week before Howard can have some rest. MacDonald could be medically cleared to play early in the week, play in the AHL for conditioning and hopefully be able to make an NHL start within a week or two. With Gustavsson still bothered by a groin injury, and MacDonald on the mend it looks like a race between the two to see who’s ready to go for the Wings first.
McCollum has been in Detroit to back up Howard multiple times this season, but has yet to see any game action. He was 10-6-1 in the AHL before getting called up, with one shutout. Top prospect Petr Mrazek is 16-7-1 with the Grand Rapids Griffins and played in the AHL All-Star Classic on Monday. The organization seems to want him to continue playing everyday in the AHL, so don’t expect him to see a call-up unless he is for sure getting a spot start.
Howard has started 63, 63 and 57 games for the Wings the past three seasons, but has always had an option present for the occasional relief start. With a busy month on tap the Wings need to be at their best to try and gain ground in the Central Division. If that means they need to give Howard a night off every two weeks, they need to find a way to make that happen.