Howard/Smith near return 

As reported by Ansar Khan, goaltender Jimmy Howard is nearing return. He hasn’t played since December 20th after a MCL sprain in Tampa. 

More then likely he would have a 2 game conditioning stint with them before returning. He could be ready Tuesday against the Blue Jackets or Thursday in Washington. Both are hot teams with the capability of putting up 5 or more goals. 

From a playoff perspective this could be a turning point in the season. Howie was posting a .934 save percentage and a 1.96 GAA in 17 games played. The hope is he returns to that kind of of performance and the offense cashes in more goals with him in net. He could give the chance for the team to win games and propel themselves back into the tight standings. 

As seen in the tweet also, defenseman Brendan Smith is returning after hurting his knee again. Blashill won’t play him back to back this weekend against the Islanders and Predators. Kronwall will probably be a scratch for the Nashville game. But with 9 active defensemen, one needs to be traded or sent down on waivers, and that will likely be Marchenko or Sproul. 

Jensen and Ouellet have been young and impressive, so Blashill won’t move them, or any of the veterans. Marchenko would probably make it, but with Sproul being a young talented dman that has shown offense promise, he would probably be picked up. 

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