ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Randy Carlyle wouldn’t reveal his starting goaltender for the Winter Classic, even though everyone already knew it would be Jonathan Bernier based on his recent play.
Bernier waited for the Toronto Maple Leafs coach to leave the interview room at Michigan Stadium before nodding and confirming the obvious.
“I found out before practice,” Bernier said. “Obviously, it’s great. It’s great that he gave me the nod, and being part of this whole history is pretty amazing.”
Wednesday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings will be Bernier’s fourth straight start and fifth straight game since relieving James Reimer Dec. 21. In his previous three starts, Bernier stopped 115 of the 121 shots he faced.
Getting a chance to play so much seems to be helping Bernier’s confidence.
“I haven’t been playing much in the last three years, and I just want to feel good about myself and feel good with my health and mentally be fresh,” Bernier said. “That is probably the biggest adjustment for me. When you don’t play a lot, you don’t really need to take care of your body as much. And lately I felt that groove that I need to do my routine and feel ready for every game.”
Jimmy Howard starts for the Red Wings despite allowing five goals on 28 shots Monday night in a 6-4 loss at Nashville. It was Howard’s first game back after missing almost three weeks with a knee injury.
“The great thing about him is he’s always been good,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “He usually bounces back good. We couldn’t score enough last night. That’s just the way the game is sometimes. …
“We didn’t have enough to get it done. He gets a new opportunity tomorrow. That’s the great thing about life. You can get up every day and choose your attitude.”
BABCOCK GETS A ROOM
Visiting teams have won four of the first five Winter Classic games, including the Red Wings beating the Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field in 2009. Babcock doesn’t know why, but he has a plan for staying focused.
“Let’s just go with what is going to happen at my house,” Babcock said. “My wife’s last name is Dunham. My kids say, ‘Nobody parties like a Dunham.’ You can just imagine my house tonight, so that’s why a couple blocks down the road I got myself a hotel, because when 11 [p.m.] comes, they’re not going to care that there’s a Winter Classic tomorrow. They’re still going to be on time.
“So, the home team has one game. We went through this with our players. They know there is an opportunity on our schedule to have a heck of a New Year’s Eve party on New Year’s Day. Make a decision, but if you’re counting on your family to do it for you, I don’t like your chances.”
Daniel Alfredsson was a late scratch for the Red Wings in Nashville with back spasms, and then the former Ottawa Senators captain left Tuesday’s outdoor practice early. His status for the Winter Classic was not clear.
“All I said to him was,‘Alfie, you’re not 20. You play in tomorrow’s game if you are ready to play in tomorrow’s game. You don’t play in tomorrow’s game because it is an opportunity of a lifetime,’ ” Babcock said. “That makes no sense to me.”
—Follow Stephen Whyno on Twitter at @SWhyno.