DETROIT >> To say there might be some tension between goalie Jimmy Howard and coach Mike Babcock could be an understatement.
Howard spoke for the first time since learning Petr Mrazek was tabbed as the starting goalie for Game 1 of the Wings’ opening round series against the Tampa Bay Lighting on Thursday.
“It’s his decision,” Howard said after practice Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena. “He’s the coach. He makes the decisions around here.”
Howard said he learned of the decision from goalie coach Jim Bedard.
“He hasn’t talked to me at all,” Howard said. “I was told by my goalie coach.
“That’s up to him,” Howard added when asked if he’s disappointed he hasn’t spoken with Babcock regarding the situation. “He’s probably got a lot on his plate right now. For me it’s just about focusing and just being ready if called upon.”
That seems to be the norm with Babcock since Mrazek said he learned from Bedard he would be the starter in the playoffs.
Mrazek, who led the Grand Rapids Griffins to the Calder Cup in 2013, made 33 saves to post a 2-0 shutout in the regular season finale over Carolina.
In Mrazek’s last six wins he has a .982 save percentage (stopping 172 of 175 shots), a 0.50 goal against average and three shutouts.
Howard, who gave up three soft goals in an overtime loss to Montreal last Thursday, had lost the starting job to Mrazek after back-to-back poor outings.
Howard allowed five goals on 22 shots in a 5-4 overtime loss to the lowly Arizona Coyotes on March 24 and then was yanked after allowing three goals on 10 shots in one period the very next game against the San Jose Sharks.
“Just continue to work and if my number is called upon be there to respond for the guys,” Howard said. “It’s going to motivate anyone. Obviously, you want to be out there competing with the guys but it’s his decision.”
Howard’s advice to Mrazek was simple, “Just play. Obviously the intensity is going to pick up and everything like that. It’s an exciting time of year. Just go out there and play. He’ll be fine.
“Petr’s going to be fine,” Howard continued. “Petr’s going to play great for us. There’s definitely no concern there.”
Howard has four years left on a deal that has a salary-cap hit of just under $5.3 million a season.
When asked about his future with the team Howard said, “I’m not thinking about that right now.”