Goalie nods: Wings stick with Howard for crucial clash against Flyers

AP
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It’s a light night on the NHL calendar — just three games all told — but it’s an evening loaded with playoff implications, as the Red Wings host the Flyers in a key battle for Eastern Conference wild card positioning.

Philly’s decision in goal was relatively easy. It’ll be Steve Mason making his 10th straight start. With Michal Neuvirth hurt and the untested Anthony Stolarz backing up, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol didn’t really have an alternative option.

His counterpart, Detroit’s Jeff Blashill, had a more challenging decision.

The choice was either to stick with Jimmy Howard — who’s started four straight and won two in a row — or go back to Petr Mrazek, who played at a Vezina-caliber level through the first half of the season.

The choice?

Howard, who is coming off a stellar game against Toronto in which he stopped 32 of 34 shots, good for a .940 save percentage.

While it’s a massive contest for both teams, Detroit has a bit more on the line. The Wings have just two games left after this — both on the road, in Boston and New York — while the Flyers have three games left: Thursday versus Toronto, Saturday versus Pittsburgh and their season finale on Sunday, in Brooklyn.

Oh yeah, Detroit also has its streak of 24 consecutive playoff appearances on the line. Forgot to mention that one.

Elsewhere…

— Big night in Edmonton, as the team and fans bid farewell to Rexall. Jacob Markstrom is expected to play for the visiting Canucks, while Cam Talbot is likely to start for the Oilers.

— It’s Sergei Bobrovsky versus Garret Sparks as the Blue Jackets take on the Leafs in Toronto.