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NHL Detroit Red Wings

Jimmy Howard Holds The Key To Playoffs For Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings Howard Flames

Sergei Belski – USA TODAY Sports

With just six games remaining in the regular season, the Detroit Red Wings currently hold the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference standings. As the team tries to reach the playoffs for a 22nd consecutive season, they have no room for error down the stretch. The Columbus Blue Jackets sit right behind them with the same number of points but fewer regulation wins, and the Dallas Stars sit just two points back. The goaltending of Jimmy Howard has brought the Red Wings at least a point in each of their last three games, and he will need to stay sharp down the stretch if the team has any chance of holding on to a playoff spot.

Howard’s last appearance was a 3-0 shutout against the Nashville Predators, and he has allowed two goals or fewer in each of the last seven games. This season has brought a lot of work his way, and he is playing at the top of his game at the right time. While sporting a .920 save percentage for the season, in the past five games he has recorded a save percentage of .930 or better. The Red Wings recently showed that Howard is a huge part of their future, signing him to a six-year contract extension worth $31.8 million. He has certainly earned that deal with his play this season, and if the Red Wings do make the playoffs he will be a huge reason why they do so.

The Red Wings need to keep their foot on the gas beginning with tonight’s game against the Calgary Flames, in which they will see former teammates Joey MacDonald and Jiri Hudler one more time.

Jonathan Katje is an NHL senior writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter or add him to your circles on Google Plus.