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With Wings depth squared away, goaltending becomes the main focus

Aug 18, 2010, 12:36 PM EDT

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jimmyhoward1.jpgIt’s a bit of a cliché at times but it can be said that teams like the Detroit Red Wings don’t rebuild, they reload. By adding Mike Modano and Ruslan Salei, sure the Wings are a bit older (all right, they’re a lot older) but they’ve solidified the team’s depth all around. All that that does now is put the focus more squarely on Detroit’s goaltending to make sure things go right and that’s something Wings head coach Mike Babcock is well aware of as Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press finds out.

“It’ll be a big challenge for Howie this summer, fitness-wise, mentally,” coach Mike Babcock said. “You can say, ‘Hey, I made it,’ — well, all you’ve done is play one year. You’ve got to keep going.”

Osgood, on the other hand, needs to get going. He’s had two subpar seasons, appearing in just 23 games last season when he strung together a 7-9-4 record with a .888 save percentage and 3.02 goals-against average. He started only three games during the second half.

“Ozzie needs to have a bounce-back year,” Babcock said. “That’s going to be important for us.”

Osgood is in the last year of his contract, and while he’ll be 38 in November, there’s little doubt he’d like to stick around past next summer.

There’s no doubt that worries about a sophomore slump for Jimmy Howard will be in the back of the minds of many Wings fans and followers and having Chris Osgood get his act together to be a capable and counted on backup would do wonders to spell any worries for the team.

For Osgood, he was the team’s savior back in 2008 and 2009, but last year saw things go very wrong for him finishing the year with a 3.02 goals against average and a save percentage of .888 while playing in just 23 games. For coach Mike Babcock, heaping a 63 game workload upon Jimmy Howard probably wasn’t in the plans. Now, Howard is Detroit’s main man whether they expected him to be or not.

A sophomore slump by Howard could put the Red Wings in some trouble should Osgood’s play continue to be poor, but Howard also isn’t your typical rookie either given that he’s 26 years-old. Maybe just being an older rookie can help a player bypass the slumps of youth.

(Photo: Gregory Shamus – Getty Images)

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