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Husso Hasn’t Been Able to Save the Red Wings For Past Month

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Ville Husso, Red Wings
Ville Husso could play close to 60 games this season, especially if the Red Wings are in the playoff race.

The Detroit Red Wings’ goaltending picture is fuzzier than it was two months ago when Ville Husso was the team’s best player on most nights.

“There was a stretch early on that Ville was playing at such a high level,” coach Derek Lalonde said recently. “I think he’d be the first one to tell you his game’s tailed off. ”

After giving up five goals on 22 shots in the 6-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Monday, Husso’s goals-against average climbed to 3.10 and his save percentage dipped to .899.

The decline has occurred since mid-December. Before then, Husso had given up two or fewer goals in 11 of 20 starts. Since then, he has given up three or more goals in nine of 10 starts.

In those 10 games, Husso has given up 40 goals on 273 shots for an .853 save percentage. His GAA is 4.46 over that stretch.

“A little bit of that had to do with timing,” Lalonde said. “We probably overused him for a stretch. He comes back off the Christmas break sick.”

You can argue that the Red Wings also haven’t been as sharp defensively over the past month. He has played in some of these games and still given up four or five goals. For example, he didn’t play poorly and gave up five to Colorado Monday. The schedule has been tougher.

But in the first half of the season, the Red Wings won some games in which they weren’t sharp. They won those games because Husso was exceptional. He hasn’t had many exceptional nights lately.

Overuse is a concern. If Husso plays, as expected, Thursday against Vegas, it will be his 31st start. He’s on pace to play 59 games. As a pro, he has never played more than 42 games. He played 40 for the St. Louis Blues last season, and he was sharper in the first half of the season than he was in second half of the season.

The Red Wings used Alex Nedeljkovic in 59 games last season, and the impression was that he played tired in the second half of the season.

Faith in Husso

Because Husso has never been a clear-cut No. 1 starter like he is in Detroit, Lalonde says he is in “uncharted territory.” Lalonde has always expressed faith that Husso can handle the load.

“I learned a lot from last year, playing a lot of games” Husso said. “As a goalie,you want to play as many games as you can and you want to help the team to win. This year we have three good goalies, all of us pushing everybody. Just try to stay healthy and focused. It’s a long year, a lot of games, just try to battle every practice and get as many games as I can.”

Husso believes a heavy workload involves both a mental and physical challenge.

“I think it’s a little bit both,” he said. “When you get tired your mental game … you start to think more probably. Just try to work hard in the practice and we’re all in good shape, can play many games. It’s just that you need to stay sharp mentally, too. Whatever happens, win or lose, move onto the next one.”

The backup goalie will be even more crucial down the stretch when Lalonde will be managing Husso’s workload.

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“(Even) Andrei Vasilevskiy needs a second guy,” Lalonde said. “The best in the world needs a second guy. It’s something we’ve addressed and we’re trying. We’ve liked what Magnus has given us. He’s given us a couple wins. Nedo has gone down (to Grand Rapids) and worked on his game. (The backup) is a point of emphasis for us.”

Lalonde said that before this current road trip. Magnus Hellberg gave up two goals he would have liked to have back against the Arizona Coyotes.

Even though Hellberg is the guy right now, the Hellberg vs. Nedeljkovic contest may not be permanently settled. Hellberg has to get results to keep that job.

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