COMMENTARY | It has been a frustrating start to the 2012-13 season for Jonas Gustavsson. He suffered a groin injury when he came in relief of Jimmy Howard during the Detroit Red Wings' 6-0 season opening loss in St. Louis on Jan. 19.
Gustavsson saw eight shots and made seven saves against the Blues. This was the only game action he saw all season until Sunday, Feb. 17 in Grand Rapids.
I had the opportunity to see Gustavsson start for the Griffins -- the AHL affiliate of the Red Wings -- and collect a 2-1 win against the Charlotte Checkers.
Gustavsson had a shutout going until there was 2:16 remaining in the third period. A shot by Charlotte's Jeremy Welsh deflected off a Griffins defenseman and sailed over the shoulder of Gustavsson. Gustavsson made 26 saves in the win.
On Monday, Feb. 18, Gustavsson was recalled by the Red Wings and Petr Mrazek was sent back to Grand Rapids. I thought the rehab stint would last another game or two, but the Red Wings must feel Gustavsson is ready to play at the NHL level.
I was excited to see Gustavsson get back into game action. We haven't seen much of him at all this season, and if the Red Wings want to make a legitimate run at the Stanley Cup, they will need a solid backup to give Howard breaks during the season.
Let me start out by saying that I understand Gustavsson is recovering from an injury that has kept him out for nearly a month. I didn't expect him to come in and put on a dominating performance for the Griffins.
With that being said, it also was very obvious he has seen limited game action this season. He looked very unsure of himself to start the game and, luckily, his defense was able to bail him out on a number of occasions.
Griffins coach Jeff Blashill said he thought Gustavsson played well, but also mentioned the defense did not give the Checkers much of an opportunity to test him.
He still made 26 saves and, for not playing for the past month, I was happy with his performance.
On the other hand, I noticed he had problems with rebound control. There were a number of shots Sunday that could have easily been corralled by Gustavsson, but instead Gustavsson left rebound opportunities for the Checkers.
This is something I think will get better as he gets back into the groove of being on the ice every day and seeing some action at the NHL level.
As the game went on, Gustavsson started to get his confidence back. He made some key saves to keep the Griffins in the lead and was very aggressive.
Being too aggressive almost cost his team a goal early in the game, but I'd rather see him be too aggressive than too passive.
This win will give Gustavsson the confidence he needs to play at the NHL level. With Mrazek starting on Sunday against the Minnesota Wild, I expect Howard will start the next two games.
Depending on how Gustavsson feels during the week, I think he will get the start Saturday, Feb. 23 against Nashville or Sunday against Vancouver.
Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who has followed the Red Wings and the NHL since the 1993-94 season. He is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can follow Tom on Twitter @tom_mitsos.
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