Howard returned Monday night from a knee injury to make his first appearance almost three weeks after sustaining a knee injury. But against the Nashville Predators in a 6-4 loss, he gave up two goals in the first five shots he faced. He settled down to some degree but still allowed five goals while recording 23 saves. The Predators also scored on an open-netter.
It certainly didn’t appear Howard was ready but when a goalie comes off an injury, it’s hard to gauge when he might be ready to make a return.
It was now or never for Howard. The way he played Monday, perhaps it should have been never.
Howard has not had a bad season. Prior to his injury, he was just the victim of bad luck, considering this personal record was below .500. His goals-against average is 2.76 and his saves percentage is .906. But he hasn’t been Detroit’s best goalie with that honor going to Jonas Gustavsson.
Eventually, it will be official that Howard is no longer his team’s No. 1 goalie. But for now, the Red Wings obviously still need Howard to be healthy and effective for the rest of the season if they are to make any type of playoff run. He’s still going to be playing a lot of games for the team.
But Howard needs to get his rhythm back, and in a hurry. Otherwise, he’s going to hold the team back from achieving various goals.