Wings backup bides his time

CON GRIWKOWSKY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 5:53 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Last night was a bit of a milestone for Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.

The team's second-round pick in 2003 has had a career highlighted by backup duty to Chris Osgood. Howard has spent the better part the last three seasons with the Wings' AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, and before this season, he appeared in just nine games.

Howard had been scheduled to get his first-ever start against the Oilers last night, but Osgood's recent play has given Howard extra chances to show what he could do.

Osgood was pulled at 7:05 of the first period in Vancouver after letting in a pair of goals. Howard stopped 20 of 22 shots in a 5-4 win as the struggling Wings evened up their season record to .500 (4-4-1-1).

"It's something to build off, definitely," said Howard, who earned his second career win in Vancouver.

Last night's start was Howard's fifth appearance in the team's 11 starts. He's now had more appearances and ice time early this season than in any of his previous three NHL campaigns.

Wearing the winged wheel and playing on a team that lost Game 7 of last year's Stanley Cup championship is a different kind of burden for a young goalie.

"Very rarely do we get to see anybody's B game," said Howard. "Usually, when you play the Red Wings, everybody likes to size themselves up against us. We usually see everybody's best."

Howard has had to learn to be patient, but this may be his time to seize the moment.

"They groom us in Grand Rapids until we're ready," said Howard. "When we're ready, we're ready to contribute instead of getting thrown right into the fire. Watching these guys in the playoffs has been really key."

CON.GRIWKOWSKY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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