Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard isn't having the season he expected. Though he hasn't had the best performance this year, he keeps getting hampered by some bad luck with injuries. Howard had an MRI this week, which revealed a Grade 1 MCL sprain according to Red Wings general manager Ken Holland. The injury will sideline Howard 2-4 weeks.
Per Ken Holland, #RedWings G Jimmy Howard has grade 1 MCL sprain, left knee. Out 2-4 weeks.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) December 13, 2013
The Wings will not put Howard on injured reserve until he can be reevaluated next week, according to Holland.
The injury may not hurt the Red Wings too much in the short term as Jonas Gustavsson has been rather remarkable in relief of Howard. Injuries to goalies are never great for organizational depth though. The timeline also could impact Howard's status for the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The injury also may put Howard's Olympic candidacy in the balance. He is one of six goaltenders primarily in the mix for one of three goalie positions on Team USA. Jonathan Quick, the preseason favorite to start for the U.S. in Sochi, is also sidelined with an injury though.
This doesn't give Howard any time before Team USA's roster announcement at the Winter Classic to make a better impression than what his numbers currently show.
U.S. general manager David Poile explained how Team USA would handle injured players in a conference call with the media Thursday.
"If we think any of these [injured] players are going to be on the Olympic team or we want them on the team and they're going to be healthy by Feb. 11, then we'll have to name them on the team and then we'll have to deal with replacing them if the injury doesn't come around," Poile said.
Howard has a 6-8-7 record, .910 save percentage and 2.65 goals-against average. He does have a stronger body of work, including a stellar performance last postseason and a recent strong showing at the World Championship in 2012. He's likely in the mix to be Team USA's No. 3 at this point, assuming he recovers in time.
Team USA is dealing with a litany of injuries to players that would be considered strong candidates to make Team USA including Howard, Quick, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin and Ryan Callahan.
For the Red Wings, this is another derailment in Howard's efforts to get back on track.
Meanwhile, Detroit can lean on Gustavsson, who has posted an 8-1-2 record, .933 save percentage and 1.93 goals-against average. Though he'll have a heavier work load with Howard out for an extended period, the Wings should have confidence they can at least get by with Gustavsson.