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Jeff Riger: Jimmy Or Joey?

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DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 23:  Patrik Berglund #21 of the St. Louis Blues is stopped by Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings during their NHL game at Joe Louis Arena on January 23, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

DETROIT, MI – JANUARY 23: Patrik Berglund #21 of the St. Louis Blues is stopped by Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings during their NHL game at Joe Louis Arena on January 23, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

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I have to admit I have no idea what Mike Babcock is thinking.

Later today the Red Wings go for their 24th win in a row at the Joe and nobody knows who will be starting in net. The team had the day off on Wednesday so we all will have to wait until the morning skate to find out if Babcock will go with Jimmy Howard or Joey MacDonald.

Howard was back in between the pipes Tuesday night in Chicago for the first time since February 2nd when he broke his finger against the Vancouver Canucks. It just so happens that Vancouver will be at the Joe on Thursday; but will Howard be on the ice? Jimmy lost Tuesday night as Detroit fell 2-1 to the Blackhawks; however the Maine native was not at fault, making 27 saves on 29 shots. Howard was exceptional, especially in the 2nd period where he stood on his head to keep the Wings in the game and give them a chance to win. If the 28-year-old was supposed to show signs of rust, there were no such signals.

And then there is Joey MacDonald…

Joey Mac has won the hearts of Hockey Town after winning six straight games in downtown Detroit, games of course that helped the Wings set the all time NHL record for the most consecutive wins on home ice. MacDonald was phenomenal preserving the home winning streak, and it wasn’t one of those situations where he only had to be average because the forwards and defensemen around him were so good. Nope! On multiple occasions Joey was hung out to dry but made save after save to keep the electricity and atmosphere top notch at the Joe as the winning streak continued. MacDonald allowed just one goal in three of the six games that he played at home and allowed two goals two other times. The bottom line is MacDonald was GREAT; so does he deserve the chance to try to make it 7 in a row for him and 24 overall? During the winning, MacDonald also moved ahead of Ty Conklin as the backup goalie. Conklin has been waived and since been sent back to Grand Rapids, while Joey gets to stick around for the remainder of the season.

So who should it be?

I say it’s got to be Howard!

Sure MacDonald is trustworthy and is now a part of history, however we can’t forget that while the 6 straight games that he won is amazing, Howard won 17 in a row. It was one thing to continue to start MacDonald because there was no other option and Jimmy needed to heal, but now times have changed and it’s time for Howard to get full reps and get ready for the second season.

As hard as it is to believe, the streak is not the most important thing going on with this team right now.

In case you haven’t checked out the Western Conference race lately, let me help you out… It’s close! Detroit not only needs 2 points every single night but they also have to continue to gel as the playoffs are right around the corner with the conference being so tight. Howard is the best man for that job. I know MacDonald gives fans the optimism of that “diamond in the rough!” A guy that has all of a sudden has come into his own and is a force to be reckoned with. And he could be that guy eventually, but Jimmy is that guy right now.

As good as MacDonald has been, Howard has continued to improve season after season and if he is not in net come the postseason, the Wings will not advance very far no matter who the backup is.

I also think psychology has something to do with Babcock’s decision come later this evening. What kind of message does it send to Howard if MacDonald gets the nod against the Canucks? I know for a fact that Jimmy wanted to play in that Sunday afternoon game against the Sharks but was passed over because Joey was playing so well and his finger could use the extra couple days to heal. But now that Howard is healthy, how can you not start him? Jimmy has proven it over the course of a long season already while Joey has put together 6 very good starts. I say go with the track record!

I know a goalie controversy doesn’t exist in Hockey town currently, however if Joey Mac gets the nod later tonight, I believe one will be created and could wreak havoc on all involved.

Jimmy Howard is the right choice come later this evening!

So what do you think? Joey or Jimmy?

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