DETROIT – If you’re not an NHL superstar, it’s a ‘what have you done for me lately’ kind of world for most players.
That point was proven Monday afternoon when the Wings placed Ty Conklin on waivers and kept Joey MacDonald to backup Jimmy Howard.
“Obviously, Joey has been a great story for us,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “I still think Ty has some good hockey in him and still has some good games left in him. He hasn’t played a lot and hasn’t had a really good chance to get it going. It opened a crack and Joey MacDonald grabbed it.”
Howard, who has been out since fracturing his right index finger on Feb. 2, will start Tuesday night in Chicago.
MacDonald, 32, has been an incredible story since being recalled from Grand Rapids and relieving Conklin after one period in Edmonton on Feb. 4. He’s gone 6-1-1 with a 1.66 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage.
“It feels great getting an opportunity to stay,” said MacDonald, who signed a two-year deal this offseason to remain with the organization. “Last year I spent most of the year here and you don’t want to leave. I started the season down there and was kind of disappointed after training camp a little bit. You’ve just got to go down, work hard and be patient and wait for your opportunity.”
If Conklin isn’t claimed by noon Tuesday the Wings will send him to Grand Rapids.
“I think Ty Conklin needs to play,” Holland said. “He hasn’t really got it going. His starts have been sporadic and I think his play has probably been sporadic. He’s played some good games and played some games not so good.
“We’re running a risk he’ll get claimed on waivers,” Holland added. “We’re prepared to take that risk. Jimmy Howard’s finger, we believe he’s ready to roll, but we don’t know until he gets at it.”
Conklin had his chance to solidify himself as the backup in Edmonton but gave up three goals on nine shots and never saw the ice again.
“He’s been sitting there watching what’s gone on the last two weeks,” Holland said. “With the injury to Jimmy Howard it was probably a chance for him to go on a run. The first game he gets in there and gives up three goals on nine shots. Mike Babcock made the change. Joey shut the door in Edmonton, they scored in the very last minute and we lost in a shootout. He lost 2-1 in Phoenix and since he’s really taken the ball and run. That’s what pro sports are all about.”
Detroit signed Conklin, 35, this offseason to a one-year deal worth $750,000 hoping he could recapture the magic between the pipes he had when he went 25-11-2 in the 2008-09 season as Chris Osgood’s backup. That wasn’t the case as he went 3-5-0 with a 3.40 GAA and a .878 save percentage.
“We felt going into this year, what Ty Conklin did for us three years ago, win 25 wins, and what Joey MacDonald has done, between the two of them they’ve done a great job with the backup position for us,” Holland added. “Now most of the body of work has been done by Joey MacDonald, but from an organizational standpoint, coaching standpoint we really don’t care who does the work as long as the work is getting done.”
With Howard back, MacDonald will be back on the bench backing up for the time being.
“It’s tough when you’re sitting on the bench for a while and you get thrown in, but that’s kind of the backup role for a goaltender,” MacDonald said. “You’ve got to be ready at all times and it’s a lot easier once you know you’re going to be playing night after night to get into a rhythm.
“Last year Howie was doing awesome and I just kind of waited and waited and waited and got a start every now and then,” MacDonald added. “That’s the thing with a backup goalie, you’ve got to be ready at all times and whatever it is, if it’s next week or whenever my next start is I’ve just got to be ready and just perform the same way as I have been over the last couple of weeks.”
The Wings have three sets of back-to-back games remaining this year.
“I’m going to do what we always do, we’re going to try and win the games,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Whoever’s in a better situation to help us win games that’s what we’re going to do. That’s what we’ve been doing since Joey got here so that’s no different.”