DETROIT – Wings coach Mike Babcock has decided to stick with Jonas Gustavsson in goal, as Detroit hosts the Florida Panthers at Joe Louis Arena.
Gustavsson was in goal for the Wings’ 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils, Friday night.
“Gus couldn’t even get in the net last year, that’s why you’re mentally tough and stick to it,” Babcock said.
Gustavsson is 8-0-1 this season for the Wings.
He’s the first Wings goalie since Manny Legace (2000-01) to begin a season with points in his first nine straight starts.
Gustavsson, who has a 2.04 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage this season, is also the first Swedish goalie to earn points in his first nine starts. Anaheim’s Viktor Fasth earned points in eight straight starts last season.
Starter Jimmy Howard worked with goalie coach Jim Bedard and former Wings goalie Chris Osgood on Saturday.
“Frustration is a waste of time,” Babcock said when asked if Howard was frustrated with how his season has gone. “Jimmy’s a guy who’s been through it. He’s been through it with Ozzie before. He played one whole winter if I remember correctly as we were getting Ozzie ready for ‘09 for the playoffs. He’s been through it on the other side and as a goalie it’s a fine line.
“You have to find a way to get hit and you have to find a way to get confident,” Babcock continued. “You always find out way more about yourself during tough times, but that’s the same with everybody in any walk of life. When things are going great we’re all great people. It’s when it’s not going good it’s how we choose our attitude, how we choose our worth ethic, that makes you a good pro. Every good goalie in the National Hockey League has been through some ups and downs.”
Howard is 6-8-6 this season with a 2.70 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.
“It’s good to have (Osgood) around,” Babcock said. “Ozzie’s been around (goaltender coach) Jimmy Bedard for a long time. He’s an outstanding goaltending coach. He’s got a good read on technically, but a better read on the game as far as the mental side of it goes. He’s done a great job with Ozzie, (Dominik) Hasek, Manny Legace and now he’s into Howard, (Petr) Mrazek and Gustavsson.”
Howard signed a six-year extension last season with a $5.5 million average salary-cap hit attached to it.
“We understand how important Howie is for us,” Babcock said. “There’s not one guy in the room that doesn’t understand that, now he’s just got to get the net back.”
Gustavsson is in the final year of a $1.5 million deal he signed on the first day of free agency in 2012.
Since joining the Wings, Gustavsson has had issues with staying healthy.
He suffered a groin injury in a preseason game on Sept. 21 against the Boston Bruins and was placed on short-term injured reserve.
Last year, Gustavsson pulled his groin after playing only 19 minutes of relief of Jimmy Howard in the season opener last year.
He appeared in just seven of the 48 games during the lockout-shortened year last season, making just four starts.
Gustavsson, 28, didn’t play over the final 27 games of the season, which included the playoffs.
Weiss faces former team
Stephen Weiss gets to face his former team, the Florida Panthers, for the first time as a Red Wing.
Weiss, 30, was the fourth overall pick by the Panthers in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft and spent his first 11 seasons there.
He has struggled offensively since signing a five-year deal on the first day of free agency at $4.9 million.
“It’s been a work in progress for him,” Babcock said. “He’s been (11) years in one organization and he came here he was injured in training game and got injured again so it’s been a real struggle for him that way.”
Weiss has just two goals and two assists and is a minus-3 in 24 games this season with Detroit.
He has gone 18 games without a goal and has only two points during this stretch.
“Confidence wise it’s been a real struggle for him,” Babcock said. “He’s just got to continue to work and battle. You do those things and good things happen for you. I think when you go to a new place, just not being comfortable makes it hard on you, but in reality though hockey is just hockey.”
Weiss, who missed six games with a pulled groin, was the second-line center the Wings coveted in free agency when it became apparent that Valtteri Filppula had priced himself out of their plans.
He has been up-and-down the lineup as Babcock tries to find a line that works for him.
“He’s been a real good player throughout his whole career,” Babcock said. “I don’t imagine that it’s going to take him that much longer, but when you come to a new place and you get paid a lot of money and they put big expectations on you and you put expectations on yourself. We’d like him to breath. He knows all that and he knew before he arrived. You always want it to go good for you in a new place and when it doesn’t you have to choose your attitude and battle through it.”