Goalie controversy brewing in Motown?

Tonight the Red Wings will be without a few familiar faces in the lineup against the Boston Bruins.  Pavel Datsuyk is still out with concussion-like symptoms and Todd Bertuzzi is out with an upper-body injury, believed to be a bruised shoulder.

The biggest loss for the Wings may be in net, with Jonas Gustavsson getting his second consecutive start.  Jimmy Howard is in his first season of a six-year, $31.8 million contract and has struggled this season to live up to it.  With an annual salary of $5.3 million, Howard is in the top-ten salaries for goaltenders.  Pekka Rinne in Nashville is the highest paid with $7 million.

Howard has five wins in 18 starts this season with a 2.72 goals against average, .908 save percentage and a shutout.  Gustavsson has five wins in six starts with a goals against average of 2.35 and a .926 save percentage.

Nothing against “The Monster,” he has done everything that this team has asked of him when healthy, but Detroit needs Howard in the net nine times out of ten.  They are paying him like a top-flight starter in this league and he needs to play like it as well.  The way this team is structured financially they cannot afford to have to replace Howard and still be able to afford the pieces in front of him.

Coach Mike Babcock said that this will give Howard some time with goaltender coach Jim Bedard and will be “right back in net after that.”  Having a great backup like Gustavsson gives the Wings the flexibility to make a move like this and to give Howard a break if he is struggling, and that’s all coach Babcock thinks it is (from the Detroit Free Press):

It hasn’t gone as good as Howie would like.  But let’s be clear about this: We’re going as far as Howie takes us. We’ve got an elite goalie who — it hasn’t gone as good. It happens for players when they don’t score.

When you’re a goalie and it happens for you, the spotlight is on you because it affects everything.

Hopefully this time will give Howard a chance to get his mind right and be able to play as well as the management and coaching staff think he can.

Ericsson signs extension

Announced today is the new six-year contract for defenseman Jonathon Ericsson.  The deal is for $25.5 million, or $4.25 million per season, and will keep the 29 year-old with his defense partner Nicklas Kronwall long-term.

Ericsson has never been a big point producer for the team, but has become very steady in his own zone for Detroit.  The combination of Kronwall and Ericsson has helped the team overcome the losses of Lidstrom and Stuart last season.  With the steady defensive pair and goaltender Jimmy Howard locked up long-term it will be interesting to see who the Wings spend big money on next.

So Wings fans what do you think, is this minor demotion for Jimmy Howard a big deal or just a chance for him to get his head straight while the season is still early?  Let us know at DetroitSportsBloggers.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

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