With timing being everything, Jonas Gustavsson is the man of the moment for the struggling Detroit Red Wings.
Coach Mike Babcock will again turn to his backup goaltender as the Red Wings seek consecutive home wins for the first time in more than a month Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins.
After a quick start following its jump to the Eastern Conference, Detroit (11-7-7) has been plagued by inconsistency. While the Red Wings have won two of three following a 3-1 victory Sunday at Buffalo, they have gone 1-3-6 at Joe Louis Arena since beating Philadelphia and Columbus on Oct. 12 and 15.
Gustavsson, though, has proven capable as a backup to Jimmy Howard, getting points in all six of his starts (5-0-1). He made 21 saves against the Sabres and denied Steve Ott on a penalty shot midway through the second period to preserve a 1-all tie.
”I didn’t actually think he was going to go that way because that’s the way he went when he had the first opportunity, but he did,” said Gustavsson, who made 28 saves in a 3-2 win at Boston on Oct. 14. ”I tried to be patient and follow him and lucky enough, he didn’t score.”
With that effort and Howard mired in a seven-game losing streak - the longest of his career - Babcock will start Gustavsson for the third time in four games.
“He’s got points in every game he’s played this year,” Babcock told the team’s official website Tuesday. “He gives us a chance. It’s important that we win games and it’s important that we get Howie feeling good about himself.
“To me the whole key is confidence for Howie and feeling good about himself and then we can continue to roll on.”
Pavel Datsyuk - Detroit’s leader with 12 goals - will miss his second straight game due to a possible concussion suffered in a loss to Ottawa on Saturday, and forward Todd Bertuzzi will miss his third consecutive contest with an upper-body injury.
Boston (16-6-2), which has the fewest regulation losses in the East, had a moment of poor timing Monday against Pittsburgh. It gave up the tying goal with 0.3 seconds left in regulation, but Torey Krug secured the second point 34 seconds into overtime of a 4-3 win. The Bruins have taken points in nine straight home games (7-0-2) and 10 of 11 (8-1-2) overall.
“Our guys, when it’s crunch time, I feel confident that the team is always going to be there,” coach Claude Julien told the Bruins’ official website after practice Tuesday. “And right now, it’s about trying to build on certain things and correct other areas and so on and so forth and build a little bit of consistency.”
Krug’s seven goals are among the league leaders for defensemen, and he may get some help on the blue line as Adam McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg traveled to Detroit. McQuaid has missed eight games with a lower-body injury, while Seidenberg has been out of action three games for the same reason.
“I think McQuaid is obviously inching a little bit closer, but that doesn’t mean (Seidenberg) won’t be ready either,” Julien said.
Stephen Weiss and Daniel Cleary scored 2:20 apart in the second period against Tuukka Rask to snap a 1-all tie in Detroit’s Oct. 14 win. Krug had a goal and an assist as Boston won 4-1 at home Oct. 5.