Howard resumes practicing, could play next week

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Jimmy Howard hasn’t played since Jan. 10 because of a torn groin muscle, but on Tuesday the Red Wings goaltender took a big step forward by participating in Detroit’s practice. He still won’t be available on Thursday against Colorado or Saturday versus Arizona, but if all goes well he’ll return for Detroit’s game against Pittsburgh on Feb. 11.

“That’s what we’re shooting for,” said Howard, per the team’s website. “At first we had Phoenix circled but we thought (that) would probably be just rushing it a little too much and Pitt will allow me a couple more practices to push it.”

With Jonas Gustavsson also sidelined, Detroit has been forced to lean heavily on 22-year-old netminder Petr Mrazek. He’s been something of a mixed bag, but Detroit has nevertheless rallied in Howard’s absence, winning six of its last seven contests. Howard’s return could help solidify the Red Wings’ recent gains as the goaltender has a superb 2.11 GAA and .920 save percentage in 32 games this season.

Going into Tuesday’s action, the Red Wings are just one point shy of the Eastern Conference leading Tampa Bay Lightning.