Blashill tabs Howard to start opening night; Mrazek goes Saturday

Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard celebrates after beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 in a NHL hockey game in Detroit Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard celebrates after beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 in a NHL hockey game in Detroit Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)


DETROIT >> First-year coach Jeff Blashill didn’t waste any time announcing his starting lineup for Friday night’s season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

And his starting goalie will be Jimmy Howard.

“I think there are lots of things that go into the decision, including stats and we do as much research as we can to come up with the best decision possible,” Blashill said when asked why Howard got the nod over Petr Mrazek.

Mrazek will get the start Saturday in Carolina.

“They’ll both continue to play in a lot of the back to back situations we have this month,” Blashill said. “I would suspect they both will get an opportunity in those situations.

“We think both of them can give us great goaltending,” Blashill added. “For multiple reasons we decided to have one start Friday and one start Saturday. We could reverse it and I’d feel just as confident going into those games that we’re going to get great goaltending.”

This will be Howard’s sixth season-opening start.

Both goalies had very similar numbers in four preseason appearances. Howard was 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage, while Mrazek was 2-0-1 with a 1.99 GAA and a .939 save percentage.

“You always reserve the right, things do change, but I plan going in that we feel real confident both will get games in those back-to-back situations,” Blashill said. “And how we do that will depend on a lot of things, different types of statistical information.”

Detroit plays back-to-back games every weekend during October.

Howard began last season as the Wings’ No. 1 goalie and put in an All-Star performance in the first half, going 16-7-7 with a goals-against average of 2.08 and a save percentage of .921.

But after being sidelined with a torn groin for more than a month he was never the same goalie when he returned.

While he was out, Mrazek went 10-1-1 and eventually got named the starter for the postseason.

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