Red Wings, Ville Husso attempting to navigate long NHL season
Detroit — It's a popular topic within the offices of the Red Wings' coaching staff, and likely will be until the end of the Wings' season.
Goaltender Ville Husso is approaching a workload he never has encountered in the NHL. After Tuesday's start, Husso will be on pace for 58 games, which is new territory for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.
Husso has learned to navigate it thus far, though with a few lessons learned. Coach Derek Lalonde is confident Husso can persevere and thrive for the remainder of the schedule.
"If he stayed on this pace, which is not awful, that would probably be in that 10 to 12 range within the league, but obviously nine or 10 guys ahead of him have experienced that before," Lalonde said. "This is unchartered territory. We have been talking and thinking a lot about it. I do think we rolled out a tired Ville Husso in some games and he's not been his sharpest, especially in what you saw of some of his play early on. We still want to manage that.
"We're on pace for 58, but if we get a little less than that in the mid-50s, it would be a good target."
But the hiccup, if you want to call it that, is that Husso, with his performance this season, probably gives the Wings their best chance of winning every night. Alex Nedeljkovic and Magnus Hellberg simply haven't shown the consistency yet this season to be dependable.
So, for Lalonde, there's the need to keep throwing Husso out there, when the goaltender could use a rest.
"We do feel he's our best chance to win on any given night," Lalonde said. "So it's that balance of where it's going to end up and how do we use him."
Husso appeared in 40 games with St. Louis last season, but his second half and playoff performance wasn't as sharp as earlier in the season. Husso said he learned from the experience, how to pace himself, how to use practice, and how to better rest during the long season.
Most goalies, especially younger goalies, rarely will admit to being tired. Athletes want to compete, and dislike not being in the lineup.
Husso was sick coming out of the Christmas break, but played the first game against Pittsburgh, only to allow four first-period goals. Husso wound up missing almost a week from the effects of the illness.
Lalonde feels that was a good lesson about maturity and being honest in communication.
But Lalonde feels Husso has all the attributes and intangibles to be a No. 1 guy who can manage 55-60 starts per season.
"Talent-wise, for sure, we think there's upside for sure to be that No. 1," Lalonde said. "But he has to learn. This is unchartered territory. We've talked about it, maybe too much, because we worry about playing him (too much). It's a marathon. We think he can get there. There's some maturing, how he handles his off-ice (training), and his next off-season will be big for him."
Bob Boughner, the Wings' associate coach who oversees the defense, was the head coach in San Jose the last three seasons, so there was a lot of catching up with some of the Sharks' traveling party.
Lalonde, a rookie head coach, spoke glowingly of what Bougher has brought to Lalonde and the Wings' staff.
"I literally could not have drawn up a better resume for me," Lalonde said of adding Boughner. "I'm not going to say it fell into our lap, I really think he wanted to be here because we're trying to build something and to work with some of these young defensemen here.
"As a first-time head coach I've watched Jon Cooper (in Tampa) when he was young in his career, and he hired Rick Bowness (veteran coach), and these guys' experience is real. Especially with Bob, not only on a players' side of it but the coaching side. He's been vitally valuable for me running the penalty kill and the defense, the ins and outs of just the everyday being a head coach."
Lalonde recounted the mood after Saturday's 2-1 loss against Philadelphia, and Boughner providing a calm voice.
"He's just an old-school hockey guy," Lalonde said. "That Philly loss stung. We did so many good things, and Bob has been there and he walked me through the numbers and how well we played, and just hang in there. Having that type of experience and someone like that has been extremely valuable."
Tyler Bertuzzi (lower-body) participated in the morning skate, but missed his second consecutive game with an injury. But Lalonde was optimistic Bertuzzi will be ready to play Thursday in Montreal.
... Filip Zadina (lower-body) and Robert Hagg (undisclosed) both skated Tuesday, with Lalonde saying Hagg is rostered and ready to play, while Zadina is day to day.
... The Wings activated forward Matt Luff from injured reserve and assigned him to Grand Rapids.
Luff, 25, played in seven games with the Wings this season, with one goal, before suffering a facial injury after going face-first into the boards Nov. 8 against Montreal.