TRAVERSE CITY – In Chris Osgood’s words, “Every season is different now.”
Osgood and his Red Wing teammates are hoping that is indeed the case for the veteran goaltender.
Osgood plodded through one of his worst seasons of his NHL career a year ago.
First, he rarely played as the Wings rode rookie Jimmy Howard.
Second, when he did play he didn’t do well at all.
“When I was supposed to play I didn’t and when I wasn’t supposed to I did,” Osgood said Sunday afternoon at Centre I.C.E. Arena in Traverse City. “I don’t know how much I’m going to play (this season). I just come ready for anything. That’s what I told myself this year, just be prepared for anything that comes my way. I think I’m ready for that.”
Osgood started just 21 games last season, the third lowest in his 16-year NHL career. He finished with a 3.02 goals against average and a save percentage of just .888.
“I didn’t have a good year last year,” said Osgood, who led the Wings to back-to-back appearances in the Stanley Cup finals. “That’s definitely motivating. I don’t know how many more years I’m going to play so I definitely would like to have a real good year this year.”
Osgood played in his first intra-squad scrimmage yesterday and stopped all 15 shots he faced. He looked very sharp in doing so.
“I’m always (motivated),” Osgood said. “You always want to start out good.”
“I thought Ozzie had a good session, good for him,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “That’s important. Anytime you’re a veteran player I think it’s real important to get off to a good start. Obviously, Ozzie has committed his summer to doing that and I think that will show.”
Osgood also feels the extra time off the Wings had this summer will help him this season.
“I don’t feel rusty, I feel real good and rested for the first time,” Osgood said. “I just had more time to work out and get on the ice more and just rest my body in a better way than I did the previous two years when we went to the finals.
“I just feel like I’m ahead of the game and those last two years coming back I felt like I was always playing catchup,” Osgood added. “I never really got things together. This year I feel I’m ahead of the game and ready for anything.”
Osgood has won three Stanley Cups in Detroit.
“Just having more time off has made a huge difference,” Osgood said. “I didn’t play much last year so obviously I needed to go on the ice earlier.
“The two previous years were totally different, we played late and we only had two months off really,” Osgood added. “I feel real good right now.”
Osgood didn’t even make an appearance to relieve Howard when he struggled at times in the playoffs last year.
“It’s called work ethic, getting prepared and treating every practice like it’s an opportunity to get better,” Babcock said. “You do all those things and engage mentally and physically, he’s got too much skill not to have success.”
Howard took over the starting gig from Osgood in early November.
Howard’s efforts got the Wings into the playoffs and also made him a finalist for the NHL Rookie of the Year award.
“I want Ozzie to do real well when he’s out on the ice,” Howard said. “We want each other to do well.”
This season, Osgood wants to push Howard for more starts.
“That’s not a goal, you have to have tough competition on the team to play well,” Osgood said. “I don’t want to sit and not play. You always want to be on the ice and playing. You want to be that guy.
“When you’ve done it before and you don’t get a chance to do it it’s frustrating,” Osgood added. “I definitely don’t want to have a year like I had last year. I want to have a real good year this year.”
Osgood said he hasn’t talked with Babcock about the number of games they’re looking for him to play in this season.
“It’s impossible to talk about numbers,” Osgood said. “So many different things go into it. I’ve talked to Mike lots and I said I’ll be ready for anything. That’s my goal. That’s kind of the motto I’m going to live by this year.”