When goalie Jimmy Howard returns to the Detroit Red Wings‘ lineup after an anticipated absence of 2-to-4 weeks, the big question will be if he’s No. 1 or No. 2. Everyone’s assuming he’ll be back in the top spot. And perhaps he should. But it’s going to depend on whether or not Jonas Gustavsson continues his excellent play and remains sharp in the No. 1 role.
While Howard nurses his MCL sprain, the Red Wings will give Gustavsson a shot at seeing how good he is at being the No. 1 goalie. Petr Mrazek has been brought up as the backup goalie and chances are he’ll go back down once Howard comes back from his injury.
If Mracek comes through with solid performances, the Red Wings are likely to consider him as the eventual backup and will have to determine what to do about Howard or Gustavsson. Perhaps trading one for a quality NHL scorer which the Red Wings so badly need, would make some sense during the offseason. But for now, Howard has to make sure he comes back as good as new. Not only does he has to come back healthy, but he needs to be better than he was before when Gustavsson was actually giving better performances.
Gustavsson entered Saturday’s home game with the Pittsburgh Penguins at 8-1-2 with a .933 saves percentage and 1.93 goals against average. Howard is at 6-8-7 with a .910 saves percentage and 2.65 goals against average. Howard also has not played well in shootouts which has been costing the Red Wings a lot of points.
When Howard returns, coach Mike Babcock has a serious decision to make.