Howard to start Saturday; Datsyuk says he’s good to go

DETROIT >> Quick update from Wings practice Friday at Joe Louis Arena.

Jimmy Howard will get the start in goal Saturday in Minnesota, after serving as the backup the last four games behind Petr Mrazek.

Wings coach Mike Babcock seems like he’s basing his decision on the fact the Wings come back and play Sunday at home against the Washington Capitals.

Mrazek will start Sunday.

“We’ve had no luck with back to backs,” Babcock said. “So this way they’re both getting one, haven’t thought about it anymore than that. We feel this gives the best chance to have success in both games.”

Howard was pulled in his last start on March 26, after allowing three goals on 10 shots in the first period. The game before he allowed five goals on 22 shots in an overtime loss to Arizona.

“We’ve got to get points, it’s as simple as that,” Howard said. “It doesn’t matter how or who’s in the net. Just got to go out there and perform and we need to get points right now.

“I feel good,” Howard added. “I’ve worked with (goalie coach) Jimmy Bedard pretty much every single day, a half hour before guys even got on the ice too. So we’ve worked on some things and I feel good about the game, and I’m excited to be playing again.”

Howard isn’t sure if a lot of action early will help him settle in Saturday. He just wants to go in feeling great.

“There are some nights where you don’t see any action, you feel great out there,” Howard said. “And there are other nights when you see a ton. So I think it varies from night to night. But it’s just about focusing and keeping your eye on the puck.

“I mean, the only thing I care about (Saturday) is just going out there and getting points,” Howard continued.

Pavel Datsyuk skated on a line with Tomas Tatar and Darren Helm and also practiced on the power play.

Babcock said he’ll be a morning decision on if he’ll play Saturday or not.

“We don’t know how it’ll react so we’ll decide tomorrow morning,” Babcock said.

Datsyuk said he was good to in the locker room after practice.

Erik Cole didn’t practice and won’t play Saturday.

The Wings are facing a red-hot Wild team that’s riding a hot goalie in Devan Dubnyk.

Dubnyk is 26-7-1 since being acquired from Arizona on Jan. 14 and in each of Minnesota’s losses in that stretch has been by one goal.

“It just goes to show you, I think the team was struggling a bit, they didn’t feel they weren’t getting goaltending so this guy goes in and plays real well for them,” Babcock said. “He’s a big guy, seems to be square to the shooter, minimal movement. He’s good enough with the puck to help the D. He’s played real well for them.

“Goaltending gives you confidence,” Babcock continued. “That’s real important. We all know that. He’s gone in there and has been solid and they’ve played way better in front of him.”

Dubnyk is second in the league in goals-against average (2.07) and save percentage (.930). He’s got six shutouts.

“They’ve always had a good team and they always used to have really good goaltending for whatever reason for them this wasn’t the year,” Niklas Kronwall said. “They went out and grabbed him and ever since they’ve been one of the best teams in the league.”

“It’s been pretty tremendous,” Howard said of Dubnyk. “He’s doing a great job for them. He’s just giving them a chance to win every single night. Just like any other goalie, when you get into that groove, you’re playing night in and night out, everything sort of falls into place, and every game just sort of feels the same.”


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