Chris Osgood(notes) has been outstanding in helping carry the Detroit Red Wings to the past two Stanley Cup finals, but if they’re going to again play for hockey’s biggest prize this June, he may be watching from the bench.
Osgood has won three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings (14-10-5), and after struggling through his worst season statistically in 2008-09 with a 3.09 goals-against average, had a 2.01 playoff GAA as Detroit made it to the Cup finals before falling in seven games to Pittsburgh.
He’s struggling again this season—6-5-4 with a 2.75 GAA—and with five starts in the past month, has found himself a spectator more often than not. That’s partially due to the emergence of Howard, who had made just seven starts over his first three NHL seasons.
Howard wasn’t good in October, going 1-2-1 with a 3.42 GAA, but he’s been brilliant over the past month. He’s 7-3-0 with a 2.18 GAA in 10 starts since Nov. 11, and gave up just one goal for the second time in three starts Sunday - stopping 28 shots - as the Red Wings beat the New York Rangers 3-1.
“Howie was good,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He mentally battled and he hung in and he is going to start next game against St. Louis.”
Osgood missed four games in November due to the flu, leading to Howard getting more playing time. The 16-year veteran seems to be taking his decreased role in stride.
“It’s awesome for Jimmy,” Osgood told the Red Wings’ official Web site. “It was a blessing in disguise when I got sick and Jimmy got to go in and play real well. We’re going to need Jimmy to be there. We’ve got a lot of games. I’m behind Jimmy 100 percent just as the rest of the team is.”
Howard made 32 saves in Detroit’s 4-3 road shootout win over the Blues (12-11-5) on Nov. 28, when Kris Draper(notes) scored one of the Red Wings’ two third period goals. Draper has goals in each of the last two games to give him six— one short of his total in 79 games last season.
While the Red Wings were able to knock off the Blues in St. Louis after losing both of the teams’ season-opening meetings in Sweden, they should be wary of having to host them. St. Louis is 7-2-3 on the road, and went 4-1-0 during a recent stretch of five of six away from Scottrade Center.
“For some reason, we just haven’t been able to get it done at home,” defenseman Erik Johnson(notes) said after the Blues fell to 5-9-2 in St. Louis. “You have to at least be .500 at home to be a playoff team. Your home record has to be your bread-and-butter. You have to take pride in your home record. For whatever reason, we just haven’t gotten it done.”
Backes, who had a career-high 31 goals last season, finally seems to be picking it up after being held to four points in his first 21 games. He has three goals and four assists in his past seven.
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