ANAHEIM, Calif. It’s unclear if Jimmy Howard will start Sunday night for the Detroit Red Wings. There’s little doubt that the Anaheim Ducks are hoping he won’t be in goal.
Howard has posted shutouts in three of the Red Wings’ last five games against the Ducks heading into this matchup in Anaheim.
Detroit (10-7-1) is wrapping up its fifth set of back-to-back games after winning 4-1 at Los Angeles on Saturday. Howard, who was pulled after two periods of Thursday’s 5-2 loss at San Jose, returned to the lineup and was sharp with 23 saves.
“He played just tremendous for us, and it was great to see him rebound from the last game,” defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We played real solid defensively, tried to clear the rebounds and be there for Jimmy in front of the net. I thought we did a much better job in front of him, and he made some big saves.”
In Detroit’s first two back-to back sets, Howard played the first game and Ty Conklin the second. Howard played both games of the last two back-to-backs.
The Red Wings’ No. 1 goalie may be lobbying to go right back into the crease since his three shutouts of Anaheim (6-9-4) are his most against any team. Howard made 22 saves in a 5-0 home win over the Ducks on Nov. 5.
The Ducks are searching for answers with the second-fewest points in the Western Conference. Stars Corey Perry (13 points) and Ryan Getzlaf (11) are off to slow starts.
“I’m confident in this group, and if we keep working the way we are, we’ll turn things around,” Getzlaf insisted.
Anaheim is 1-6-3 in its last 10 games, but feels it is improving although there haven’t been many points to show for it.
“In the Western Conference, teams are winning every night and you can’t get left behind,” forward Andrew Cogliano said. “We have to find a way to start getting two points.”
Jonas Hiller has posted a 4.57 goals-against average while losing his last three starts against the Red Wings. Backup Dan Ellis has been a bit better, going 3-4-1 with a 2.73 GAA in nine starts against them.
Perry hasn’t scored in his last six games versus Detroit, Getzlaf hasn’t done so in his last eight and Teemu Selanne has one goal in his last eight matchups with the Wings.
The Red Wings ended a five-game road slide Saturday by getting some of their struggling skaters untracked. Pavel Datsyuk ended a 12-game drought with two goals and Justin Abdelkader scored for the first time in 15 games.
“It was very important, especially after the way we started the last couple of games,” Lidstrom said. “We weren’t happy with the way we were playing, but (Saturday) we stuck to our game plan for 60 minutes. We wanted to hang onto the puck, especially in their zone, try to grind their D and get some shots with traffic in front of their goalie.”
Detroit is also getting healthier, as veteran winger Todd Bertuzzi returned Saturday after missing six games because of a sinus infection.
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