In Mike Babcock's mind, the call was simple.

Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard wasn't going to play all 48 games this season.

So, Thursday's game against the Blues was as good a time as any to let Howard take a break and watch Petr Mrazek make his NHL debut.

Which turned out to be a successful one, as the Red Wings won, 5-1.

"We felt, after the last two games, Howie needed a mental break," Babcock said. "He needs a day where he doesn't have to think about (starting).

"We thought we'd get another goalie back, we were assuming Gus (Jonas Gustavsson, groin) would play, maybe Mac (Joey MacDonald, back), but that never happened."

Howard is 4-4-1 with a 3.07 goals-against average and .892 save percentage.

"It hasn't been going exactly the way I would have liked out there," Howard said. "You use this (day off) to do more work with (goaltending coach) Jimmy (Bedard), which I haven't been able to do a lot of.

"You want to be out there every game for the guys but it's one of those things. It's good to just hit the refocus button here."

As for Mrazek, Howard told him play his game and relax.

"I wasn't nervous at all until Steve (Yzerman) told me I better not lose this one (game)," Howard said of his debut in 2005. "That's when the butterflies kicked in a little bit."

Steady hand

Mrazek didn't appear to have any butterflies while making 26 saves.

"Very calm back there," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said of Mrazek. "He never really panicked. He was square to the puck all night, controlled rebounds, and he looked real good."

Said Babcock: "He's not like that (nervous). He thinks he's good and there's nothing wrong with that."



From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130208/SPORTS0103/302080393#ixzz2KJpcnBFR