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Jimmy Howard Back In Net As Red Wings Take On Blues

(Sports Network) - The Blues were sparked last time out with the return of one of their injured forwards. The Red Wings could get a similar boost tonight if goaltender Jimmy Howard can return to the ice.

Detroit hopes to avoid a fourth loss in five games and a second in a row to St. Louis Thursday night at Scottrade Center.

Though the Red Wings still lead the Central Division with 62 points -- six more than the second-place Predators -- they have dropped two straight and three of their last four while dealing with a mass of injuries. Forwards Tomas Holmstrom, Pavel DatsyukMike Modano and Dan Cleary, as well as defenseman Brad Stuart and goaltenderChris Osgood, are all out for the club.

Howard, meanwhile, missed his second straight game on Tuesday, a 4-1 setback in Pittsburgh, due to a bruised right knee, but was able to practice on Wednesday and could get the start tonight. He is 4-2-1 with a 2.67 goals- against average in his career versus the Blues.

Joey MacDonald started in Howard's place on Tuesday and gave up three goals on 28 shots, including one on a first-period penalty shot. Johan Franzen scored his team's only goal in the second frame.

"We can't start behind each night, especially against good teams," said Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock after his club lost its third straight road game.

While Detroit has struggled on the road, St. Louis halted a three-game home losing streak on Tuesday, besting Los Angeles, 2-1. Patrik Berglund scored and defenseman Erik Johnson notched the game-winner with 6:47 left in the third period.

"It's not going to take anything pretty, I just threw it at the net," said Johnson of his goal, a soft wrister from the right circle.

Jaroslav Halak made 26 saves for the Blues, who have won two of three since a five-game slide and had T.J. Oshie back in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 10 after a broken left ankle sidelined him for 31 games. Though Oshie did not log a point and was a minus-one, he skated in nearly 18 minutes of action.

St. Louis was also just happy to get one of its injured players back as it remains without both Andy McDonaldand David Perron due to concussions. Also, defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo was hit in the face by a puck in Tuesday's win and was placed on injured reserve.

The Blues are four points back of a playoff spot in the Western Conference and were outscored 12-5 in losing their first two games to the Red Wings this year before a 4-3 home on Dec. 23 halted a three-game series losing streak.

Halak has been in net for all three meetings this year, posting a 4.70 GAA.

Detroit has lost two straight at Scottrade Center, but still has 16 wins in its last 23 visits to St. Louis.