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NHL Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings vs. Buffalo Sabres: A Team USA Goaltending Showdown?

Jimmy Howard

Charles LeClaire – USA TODAY Sports

The 2013-14 season kicks off Wednesday night for the Detroit Red Wings, and goaltender Jimmy Howard will have an early chance to help make his case for a Team USA roster spot for next year’s Winter Olympics. Howard faces off against the Buffalo Sabres and fellow Team USA candidate Ryan Miller in the opener, and will look to pick up where he left off in last season’s playoffs.

An injury to backup Jonas Gustavsson forced Howard to be a workhorse last season, as he appeared in 42 of Detroit’s 48 games. He responded with a 21-13-7 record and a stellar 2.13 goals-against average, then helped the Red Wings past the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the playoffs and to the seventh game of their second round match-up with the Chicago Blackhawks. He’ll start this season in a similar situation as Gustavsson is injured again and rookie Petr Mrazek will be on hand in the backup role.

Miller had one of his worst seasons statistically since joining the Sabres, though it’s hard to place too much blame for that on him. Buffalo is in rebuilding mode, and Miller will be trying to put a 2013 season in which he went 17-17-5 with a 2.81 goals-against average behind him. He was stellar in net for Team USA at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, helping the team to a silver medal.

In addition to Miller and Howard, Cory Schneider (New Jersey Devils), Craig Anderson (Ottawa Senators) and Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings) are in the mix for Sochi. Quick is considered the frontrunner for the starting job, but it’s a safe bet to say Team USA’s management will be keeping a close eye on Wednesday’s showdown between Miller and Howard.

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