ST. LOUIS - The Detroit Red Wings will meet the St. Louis Blue Thursday night without veteran Jimmy Howard starting in goal.
Instead, 20-year-old rookie goalie Petr Mrazek will make his NHL debut. He was recalled by Detroit since backups Jonas Gustavsson and Joey MacDonald both have been out of the lineup with groin and back injuries, respectively. Coach Mike Babcock said Howard can't play all 48 games this season.
Detroit will be depending on Mrazek to help them recover from a two-game losing streak.
This is the third meeting of the season between the Central Division foes. After breezing to a convincing 6-0 season-opening triumph over Detroit, the Blues received some payback from the Red Wings in the form of a 5-3 loss on Friday. The rivals meet for the third time this season on Thursday - this time in the Gateway City. St. Louis will need to shore up its defense after yielding 11 goals during its current two-game losing streak.
Detroit began a stretch of playing eight of 11 games at Joe Louis Arena on a down note with a 4-1 setback to struggling Calgary on Tuesday. Johan Franzen scored for the second straight contest and has three goals and five assists during his six-game point streak. Franzen set up three tallies against St. Louis on Friday.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN (Detroit), FSN Midwest (St. Louis)
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (4-4-1): Captain Henrik Zetterberg put forth his best game of the season by recording his fifth hat trick and matching a career high with five points in Friday's victory. Zetterberg has collected 11 points in the last six games. Jimmy Howard made 19 saves on Tuesday - and stopped Calgary captain Jarome Iginla on a penalty shot. The netminder's 114 wins has him tied with Dominik Hasek for seventh place on the team's all-time list.
ABOUT THE BLUES (6-3-0): St. Louis suffered its first loss in four outings at Scottrade Center with a decisive 6-1 setback to Nashville on Tuesday. Brian Elliott was chased after allowing four goals on 11 shots and Jake Allen came on in relief with Jaroslav Halak still nursing a groin injury. "This is a team loss that has been coming for a little while," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We're allowing the other teams' competitiveness to frustrate us. It pushes us into individual hockey rather than team hockey."
St. Louis RW Vladimir Tarasenko, who was named Rookie of the Month for January, saw his five-game point streak end on Tuesday. He has collected two goals and an assist in two meetings with the Red Wings.
Detroit RW Mikael Samuelsson and G Jonas Gustavsson skated in practice on Wednesday. Both Swedes are sidelined with groin injuries.
Blues D Alex Pietrangelo, who netted the lone goal versus the Predators, has recorded points in seven of nine games.