Not only did the Detroit Red Wings suffer an embarrassing 4-1 loss at the hands of the St. Louis Blues on Monday night, they also lost goaltender Jimmy Howard to a knee injury. With Howard expected to miss at least a week, the Red Wings will turn to Jonas Gustavsson, who will make his return from a groin injury to face the Chicago Blackhawks. The Red Wings will play four games in the next seven days, with three of those pitting them against teams currently in possession of a playoff spot. If Gustvasson fails to stay healthy, rookie Petr Mrazek will be waiting for his chance to steal the spotlight — and given his performance so far this season he is more than capable of taking over. Howard also missed a good portion of Detroit’s games in December with a similar injury, and Gustavsson played very well in his absence.
Howard came out of Monday’s game halfway through the second period. He had allowed three goals on 25 shots up to that point, as the Blues struck once in the first period and twice in the first 2:21 of the second period. It was said that he left with the always-vague “lower-body injury,” and the news on Tuesday that it was another knee injury is cause for concern for the Red Wings season as well as Howard’s Olympic hopes. The Red Wings have lost three of their last four games while only scoring three total goals, and it may not matter much who’s in net if they continue their lack of scoring. With 52 points, the Red Wings sit just outside of the playoff picture at the moment, and how they perform during Howard’s absence could very well determine their postseason fate.
Monday was not one of Howard’s better performances of the season, but if he was playing hurt it is understandable. Detroit was outshot 30-13 through the first two periods, and Howard was screened well when the Blues scored their second and third goals. Mrazek played well after taking over, with the only goal he allowed coming off a deflection off Red Wings forward Riley Sheahan‘s backside. Gustavsson is 11-3-2 with a 2.39 goals-against average this season, but his health will remain a constant concern. He has now missed time in two consecutive seasons due to similar injuries, while Mrazek has sat waiting in the wings.