Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard was named an NHL All-Star for the first time this afternoon and will be joined by teammate Pavel Datsyuk in Ottawa for All-Star Weekend.
Howard, in his second full season as the starting goaltender for Detroit, has been stellar between the pipes, leading the NHL in wins while recording a 24-10-1 record. In addition, Howard has posted four shutouts and compiled a save percentage of .924 in 35 games played.
Tonight against Phoenix, Howard hopes to collect his 100th career win and deliver head coach Mike Babcock his 400th career win in the process.
"It's definitely something you work at. For me, I didn't really see it as in the plans coming into the year, but if it happens it happens and it would be a tremendous honor," said Howard.
"Obviously we have a lot of confidence in him," said forward Justin Abdelkader. "You know, he works hard and he's just been elevating his game each game of the season. It's been fun to watch."
"He's played real well obviously," said head coach Mike Babcock. "He's become an important part of our team. Goaltending is very important but obviously Howie's become an upper-echelon player on our team. He's been very consistent."
"Good players aren't once in awhile, they're every night and that's what we expect from him and have grown accustomed to being comfortable that that's what we're going to get, so it's real positive for the Red Wings.
Datsyuk, sidelined since Sunday with a groin injury, was selected to his third All-Star Game. Through 41 games this season, he has scored 13 goals and posted 30 assists for a total of 43 points. He also has a plus/minus of +16.
After this morning's skate, both Datsyuk and Babcock would not say whether Datysuk would play tonight, calling it a gametime decision.
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, a seven-time Norris Trophy winner and 12-time NHL All-Star, was not selected to join Howard and Datysuk in Ottawa for All-Star Weekend.
While certainly qualified for the honor, the 41-year old Lidstrom requested the weekend off and was granted that request by the NHL, according to Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.
"I think, when you've won seven Norris Trophies and been in the league as long as him, if you need the weekend off, I think you probably get it," said Babcock.
All-Star Games are predictably and traditionally unkind to goalies, but Howard isn't letting the specter of facing the greatest offensive players in the world tarnish this significant achievement.
"You go out there, you get to meet guys from other teams and catch up with old friends that you know," said Howard. "Basically, have a good time and take it all in."
When asked about the the possibility of collecting his 400th win tonight, Babcock delivered the gem of the morning.
"That's summer stuff," said Babcock. "You think about that when you're having a rum by the fire."
The 2012 All-Star Game will be played Sunday, January 29 in Ottawa.
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