Howard in Calder conversation

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

The sudden talk of Jimmy Howard being a Calder Trophy candidate has a nice ring to it.

The Detroit Red Wings rookie goaltender can't listen.

"I'm not going to lie -- I hear those things, but I try to let it go in one ear and out the other," said the goalkeeper who has worked his way into be the No. 1 man for the defending Western Conference champions. "I'm not worried about it. First and foremost, we've got to make the playoffs."

Still, he has to be following the other fabulous freshmen. Right?

Surely, Howard must be keeping tabs on how Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is doing, along with others such as Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene, New York Islanders phenom John Tavares and Buffalo Sabres defenceman Tyler Myers.

"No," Howard said immediately. "I wouldn't even know where to look."

Hard to believe Howard can't find NHL.com, but it's easy to understand how focused he is on the job at hand.

Besides, there had to be days he wasn't sure whether he'd ever get the chance to be a full-time NHLer.

The way things were going, it was becoming hard to believe it would happen while he was still young enough to be eligible for the Calder Trophy.

After all, we're talking about a player drafted in the second round in 2003, spent two more years in university and then four seasons in the minors -- other than nine NHL appearances.

"It was a long-time coming," said Howard, who will turn 26 later this month. "But I'm very thankful for that. I was able to iron out a lot of wrinkles in my game and learn a lot by playing every single night.

"I'm thankful they were patient with me. It allowed me to mature, not only as a person but also as a professional. It was a good situation for me.

"Being a young, dumb college kid from the University of Maine, I had a lot to learn."

Admittedly, it took time.

Then again, good on the Red Wings for allowing the time to let Howard develop at his pace instead of throwing him to the wolves too soon and then giving up on him when things went sour.

"Every situation is different for every player. I would have loved to crack the lineup earlier in my career, but it's not the way it worked out for me," Howard said. "My path was to stay down there and learn."

And when he got the chance, he felt ready, although the watershed moment game was Nov. 12, when he backstopped the Wings to a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks and Roberto Luongo.

"I think Luongo's one of the best in the game, and going head-to-head and beating him was huge. That's when I realized, I can finally do this."


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