Gustavsson back to backup Howard, Wings

DETROIT >> Jonas Gustavsson will put his aspirations of being a starting goalie in the NHL on hold at least for one more season.

Gustavsson will return to the Detroit Red Wings to back up Jimmy Howard for a third season after agreeing to a one-year deal on Thursday.

The deal is worth over the $1.5 million he made each of the last two seasons according to Wings general manager Ken Holland.

“He was interested in staying,” Holland said during a phone interview Thursday. “We like Gus. We got (Petr) Mrazek. A year from now we’ll evaluate where we’re at.”

The one-year deal allows Mrazek to mature another season in the American Hockey League before joining the Wings.

Gustavsson’s two seasons in Detroit seemed to be spent mainly on the trainer’s table.

Battling injures from groins to shoulders, Gustavsson appeared in just 34 regular-season games with the Wings over two seasons.

“Gus played real well and had a lot to do with us making the playoffs,” Holland said. “The frustrating thing is it’s been a real battle with him with groins. We talked about it at the end of the season. He’s hoping to do something this summer to have better luck with groins.”

Gustavsson, 29, missed a total of 23 games on five separate occasions with three different types of injuries last season, but groin injuries have been his Achilles heel since signing a free agent deal with the Wings.

When Gustavsson played, he played well this season, going 16-5-4 with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. He appeared in the final two games of the playoffs, filling in for Howard, who was sidelined with the flu.

“Gus gives us a one-two security punch with Jimmy Howard,” Holland said. “He played fabulous for us. The only downside is he spent some time on IR with the groin.”

Along with missing 18 games due to a groin injury this season, he appeared in just seven of the 48 games during the lockout-shortened first season in Detroit, making just four starts. He didn’t play over the final 27 games of the season, which included the playoffs.

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