TROY, Mich. — Although the Red Wings’ schedule has not yet been officially released, one thing is for sure.
With 48 games in a short period of time, there will be a lot of work for Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson in goal.
Both goaltenders are 28 years old and looking to compete with each other in practice for more playing time.
Last season, Howard was 35-17-4 with a 2.13 goals against average and .920 save percentage. With the Toronto Maple Leafs, Gustavsson was 17-17-4 with a 2.92 goals against average and .902 save percentage.
Gustavsson is excited to be playing for his second NHL team, especially another Original Six franchise.
“When I heard the opportunity, I was just really excited right away, because I heard a lot of good things about the goalie coach (Jim Bedard) and obviously they have a lot of Swedes who have had success and they know how to develop players here,” Gustavsson said. “It’s tough competition to get playing time, but it’s something I like, too. It’s something to push me, and hopefully I can push Howie, too.
“Whatever I can to help the team win. If I play games or I’m supporting the guys, I’m just going to take my role and go with that.”
Howard has had some time to get to know his new fellow goalie, including the time they spent this past week in Arizona, working with a large group of NHL players.
“Jonas is a great guy,” Howard said. “He’s a great goalie as well. I think we’re going to push each other to get better. He works hard every single time he’s out here, so that’s how he pushes me.”
Some of the Swedish players know Gustavsson already from playing on the Swedish national team with him.
“He’s a really good guy, fun to be around and he brings really solid, steady goaltending,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Another great addition to our club.”
Added Johan Franzen: “Great guy, first of all. Good competitor. He’s shown some good form lately. He’s going to be out there and fight every day. He wants to be in the net. We’re always looking for a good guy to have besides Howie.”
Both goaltenders said they benefited from the minicamp in Arizona. Danny Cleary and Kronwall also attended it.
“It was good. The practices were really high-tempo,” Howard said. “There were a lot of guys, so we were able to scrimmage, split everyone up. It was good in that aspect.”
With many Wings still getting back in town, Gustavsson said the fact that there was a large group in Arizona made it appealing.
“We felt like that was the best way to prepare,” Gustavsson said. “Hopefully, that was a good decision. But I thought we had a pretty good camp there, we had some good skates and some good workouts.”
Gustavsson said he moved to metro Detroit in September and has been able to get acclimated to the area. Now he and the team will have to get acclimated to playing without Nick Lidstrom.
“That would have been great (to play with Lidstrom),” Gustavsson said. “I understand that he had a long career and everyone knows how successful he was, and if this was his time, that’s not my opinion to say anything about that, but of course I would be thrilled to play with him. But at least I got a chance to be with him in the Olympics, that was fun.”