Jimmy Howard has won five straight starts against the St. Louis Blues, but his injured left shoulder makes his status uncertain for the next meeting.

The Detroit Red Wings seem more than comfortable giving his backup the nod if needed once again.

Despite a recent slump, Detroit looks to keep hold of second place in the Western Conference on Wednesday night when it hosts St. Louis.

Howard was injured in the third period of Saturday’s 4-2 win against Toronto, but an MRI revealed no significant damage. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said it’s possible Howard may return to face the Blues.

“He practiced a little (Monday) and we’re going to see how he feels (Wednesday) morning,” Holland told the NHL’s official website. “I would think there is a possibility he dresses for the St. Louis game, but if he’s not ready I would fully expect him to play Saturday.”

Backup Joey MacDonald made 38 saves Monday in a 3-2 overtime loss to Chicago. Detroit (44-22-10) is sure to make the playoffs, though it holds only a one-point lead over San Jose for the No. 2 seed in the West. Holland said there’s no need to rush Howard back into the lineup despite him going 5-0-0 with a 2.59 goals-against average in his last five starts against the Blues.

MacDonald is 2-0-2 with a 1.08 GAA since March 17.

“What I like about him is he’s 30 years of age,” Holland said of MacDonald. “Even though he hasn’t played a lot of NHL, he’s played a lot of pro.”

The Red Wings have played the last five games without star winger Pavel Datsyuk, who has a lower-body injury. Detroit has gone 1-2-2 without Datsyuk, and his status is in doubt for Wednesday.

Datsyuk had a goal and an assist in the Detroit’s most recent meeting against St. Louis – a 5-3 victory March 12.

Captain Nicklas Lidstrom scored against Chicago to become the NHL’s first 40-year-old defenseman with 60 points in a season, surpassing Ray Bourque’s record of 59 set in 2000-01.

Lidstrom recorded the first hat trick of his 19-year career Dec. 15 in a 5-2 win against the Blues.

St. Louis (34-32-11) has been eliminated from playoff contention and had its two-game winning streak snapped Tuesday with a 3-2 shootout loss to Minnesota. The Blues had outscored their opponents 10-3 in their previous two games.

Chris Stewart scored twice, giving him five two-goal games and 12 goals total in 20 contests since being acquired in a Feb. 19 trade with Colorado. He’s scoreless with a minus-6 rating in three games against Detroit this season.

“I said that from Day 1, as soon as I got here the adjustment was very easy,” Stewart said. “They made the transition for me so easy I felt like I’d been here my whole career.”

Jaroslav Halak made 26 saves against Minnesota, but he’s 1-3-1 with a 4.62 GAA against the Red Wings this season. He’s given up at least four goals in four of the five meetings, including a career-high seven in a 7-3 loss Nov. 17.

The Red Wings have won four of the last five matchups with the Blues, including the last three at Joe Louis Arena.

Copyright 2011 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.


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