InGoal Update: Red Wings get injury scare as Howard goes down
… Plus Hiller update as Emery backstops big win; Capitals call up Holtby, throw goaltending into flux before playoffs; Osgood still hopes to play, even if it’s next season; and more in March 27 update
Detroit starter Jimmy Howard appeared poised to celebrate his 27th birthday by moving back into a tie for the NHL lead in wins.
Instead, after leaving a third period crease collision with an apparent shoulder injury, his season – and the Red Wings playoff chances – appeared in doubt.
Howard seemed to hurt his right shoulder after being fallen on by Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul, who added insult to injury by putting the puck into the net to tie the game (video below), giving way to Joey MacDonald for what turned into a 4-2 win.
With veteran Chris Osgood out until at least the last weekend of the regular season after experiencing complications in his recovery from sports hernia surgery, there was no shortage of speculation about the potential devastating impact of a serious injury to Howard on the Red Wings’ playoff chances.
The good news, according to General Manager Ken Holland’s statements to both the Detroit News immediately after consulting with the medical staff, is Howard’s injury doesn’t appear to be serious:and
“What I’ve been told is that it’s day-to-day and it’s nothing significant. It looks like a strain or a sprain, but we are going to go for a precautionary MRI (Sunday) to be sure. But he looks to be OK. Unless the tests come back different, and the doctors don’t think they will, then we’re hoping it’s nothing significant. We will see tomorrow.”
The Red Wings may yet need to call up a goalie from Grand Rapids in the AHL – Jordan Pearce appears to be the only NHL-signed option unless they dip down to the ECHL, where prospect Thomas McCollum is playing – for Monday’s game against Chicago.
The hope is they don’t need anyone much longer than that, because there aren’t a lot of playoff options.
Speaking of Osgood …
The 38-year-old hasn’t played since Jan. 4, but told the Detroit News he hopes to be back on the ice by Tuesday or Wednesday, and still wants to get back into a game before the end of the regular season. Even if he doesn’t Osgood was talking about next season, which seems to be a change from earlier chatter this might be his last NHL season:
“I am hoping to be available for the playoffs. That would be the best-case scenario,” said Osgood, who on Thursday welcomed son Max into the family with wife Jenna and two daughters. “My goal is to just get healthy and feel real good and take it from there. I can’t go out there when I am not at full capacity and expect to play like I have to play. I can’t be 80 percent or whatever, that wouldn’t be fair to the guys. I have to make sure I’m totally healthy and ready — if not for a game or the playoffs, then for next year.”
Capitals crease crowded again as surprise recall Holtby pitches SO
No sooner did we tell you Washington had at least pared their uncertain goaltending situation down to a two-horse race, then the Capitals recalled impressive rookie Braden Holtby from the AHL on Saturday.
There was a perfectly good explanation for it – Michal Neuvirth fell ill and the Capitals didn’t want to risk putting a recently (and frequently) injured Semyon Varlamov back in after playing his first game in more than a month against Ottawa the night before. But after watching the high-energy Holtby respond to tough circumstances with an 18-save shutout of Washington, it’s hard not to ask if deserves to be in the mix as the Capitals prepare for the playoffs.
The 21-year-old from Saskatchewan has won six straight with Washington, is 8-0-1 his last nine and 10-2-2 overall with two shutouts, a 1.79 goals-against average, and a .934 save percentage. Not bad for a goalie that was preparing to play for Friday for Hershey before getting the call, backing up Nolan Schaefer instead, and then making the three hour drive to Montreal.
“Kinda getting used to that,” Holtby told The Post when asked of the unexpected call-ups. “You never really know when you’re going to get the call. Just fortunate that I did and I’m just going to focus on the game tonight and put in a good performance.”
As for Varlamov, coach Bruce Boudreau insisted his health wasn’t again a problem. If not this year, Holtby at least gives the Capitals an option for next season should Varlamov follow up on his agent’s recent comments he is considering a return to Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League next season. And should either Neuvirth or Varlamov struggle in the playoffs, Holtby is getting used to last-second phone calls and emergency starts.
Ducks happy Hiller simply struggled – at least wasn’t vertigo
When Jonas Hiller lasted less than 12 minutes in his return to the Anaheim crease before being pulled for giving up three goals on nine shots Thursday, there were fears he was again struggling with the vertigo symptoms that sidelined him more than six weeks.
Those concerns weren’t exactly eased when head coach Randy Carlyle said after the 5-4 loss to Nashville that he thought Hiller “didn’t see the puck,” especially since the goalie himself often said tracking plays was his biggest challenge with the symptoms.
So when the Ducks made it clear the next day that Hiller didn’t suffer a relapse, it may be the first time in NHL history a team in the midst of an intense playoff battle was relieved to say their starting goaltender just had a bad night, in this case due to rust.
Hiller told the Orange County Register he felt even better than during a 12-save shutout of Edmonton way back on Feb. 13, an earlier comeback attempt that resulted in recurring symptoms and a return to the injured reserve list:
“It was all right for the first game back,” Hiller told The Register. “Sure, I wish it would be a little better. I definitely felt better than the last time I played in Edmonton even though the outcome was different.”
The question now is how the Ducks will balance getting Hiller back on his game with needing to win every one left as they battle for one of the final Western Conference playoff spots. Hiller was on the bench Saturday backing up as Ray Emery remained perfect in his four starts since coming back from career-threatening hip surgery, improving his save percentage to .952 and goals-against average to 1.39. (With numbers like those the question should be why Dan Ellis was on the bench behind Hiller on Thursday, even if Emery had played the night before, as the final two goals given up by Ellis after Hiller was pulled ended up being the difference in a loss to Nashville).
Still, head coach Randy Carlyle seems determined to get Hiller, a Vezina Trophy candidate before getting hurt, back in some time:
“He’s our No. 1 goaltender,” Carlyle told The Register. “He’s been very, very strong for our hockey club. He’s part of the reason that we’re in the position that we’re in. He’s won a lot of hockey games for this team. We know that Jonas Hiller is a quality goaltender. We know how he can play. And he’ll get another chance.”
Lundqvist extends shutout lead atop NHL
Henrik Lundqvist may not be able to catch Tim Thomas atop the Vezina Trophy race as top goalie – the Boston star’ is threatening a modern record with his .938 save percentage – but the Rangers’ No.1 is building a good case for the Hart Trophy as league MVP after extending his lead atop the NHL with an 11th shutout Saturday. That it came in a 1-0 win as New York fights for its playoff life – the second time he’s won 1-0 in three games, with only 1 goal against in that stretch – is impressive, as are the rest of Lundqvist’s statistics this season, including 33 wins (sixth in the NHL), a 2.24 goals against (fifth) and a .924 save percentage (fourth).
InGoal Magazine photographer Scott Slingsby was on hand to capture his latest shutout on film, and here’s a highlight to preserve the shutout:
Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum …
Edmonton’s Devan Dubnyk may not have nearly as much to play for at the tail end of a miserable Oilers’ season, but that didn’t stop the “Giraffe” from making a save of the year candidate stop to put a scare into rival Calgary’s playoff run: