Red Wings’ Howard aims to regain form vs. Islanders

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Veteran goaltender Jimmy Howard has endured a rough season, but the Detroit Red Wings have little choice but to rely on him the remainder of the month.

Coach Jeff Blashill announced Monday that Jonathan Bernier, who had emerged as the team’s No. 1 goalie, would be sidelined until at least the All-Star break with a lower-body injury.

The Red Wings play five more games before the break, beginning with a road test against the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

“Jimmy just needs to keep working,” Blashill told the reporters. “He’s done a good job of going out every day, kind of similar to our team, and worry about the next game. He has a game on the Island, so go out and play a great game.”

Howard’s statistics are unsightly — a 2-15-1 record, a 4.10 goals-against average and an .880 save percentage. Since he became the team’s regular goaltender during the 2009-10 season, Howard has never had a GAA higher than 3.07 nor a save percentage lower than .906.

Howard, 35, missed nearly four weeks with a groin injury and returned in late December. He has allowed five goals in three of his past four starts, including five on 27 shots on goal to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.

“Confidence plays a big part of it, for any player,” Howard said to the Detroit News. “For scorers not putting the puck in the back of the net, it might be gripping the stick a bit harder. For me, it’s just not thinking and playing one puck out there. Don’t think, just play. When the game is going on, basically you’re trying to be three places at once. Just play the one puck.”

Calvin Pickard was recalled from the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins to back up Howard until Bernier returns.

“I don’t think it’s anything big-time with technique,” Blashill said of Howard’s struggles. “Certainly confidence matters in sports and life, and when it’s not going your way in the goaltending position, it certainly matters. The good thing about Jimmy is, he’s been around a long time and certainly this isn’t easy. But his mindset is in a right spot and he said, ‘I have to be better,’ and he’s going to work.”

Detroit will try to snap a five-game road losing streak. The Islanders won the first meeting this season in Detroit, 4-1 on Dec. 2, behind two goals from Jordan Eberle and 30 saves by Semyon Varlamov.

Eberle, playing in his 700th career game, also scored on Monday. That was the lone bright spot as the Islanders were pounded by the New York Rangers, 6-2.

Eberle also assisted on the Islanders’ second goal, giving him 20 points this season.

“It doesn’t feel that long,” Eberle said to the team’s website, referring to his milestone. “It goes by quickly, so you have to try and enjoy it as much as you can. Obviously, being right here now, it’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed winning hockey games and going to the playoffs last year. Hope to do that this year again.”

The Islanders have won just four of their last 11 games (4-5-2) but remain in third place in the Metropolitan Division.

–Field Level Media

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