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Return to the scene of success

by Lindsay Kramer ||

Joey MacDonald knows exactly where the goaltending standards are set in his return to the net in Grand Rapids.

He’s the one who put most of them there in the first place.

MacDonald signed with the Detroit organization last week after three seasons away from his comfort zone with the Griffins. From 2002 to 2007 he set numerous franchise marks, including career shutouts (16), games played by a goaltender in a season (66 in 2004-05), wins in a season (tied, 34 in 2004-05), shutouts in a season (tied, 6 in 2003-04), and single-season save percentage (.936 in 2003-04). He is second in career wins (88) and saves (4,251).

"I’m setting the bar pretty high for myself. I have great expectations," MacDonald said. "I’m going to go in there and keep fighting. It doesn’t matter how old you are. It may work out, it may not. But going in, I love to be there. I’m excited to be going back, and that’s a great start for me."

But MacDonald returns to Grand Rapids at a much different point in his career than when he left on Feb. 24, 2007, claimed on waivers by Boston. He played seven games with the Bruins to finish the 2006-07 season, then spent two years in the New York Islanders’ organization, including the entire 2008-09 season in the NHL.

MacDonald played last season in the Toronto organization, primarily with the Marlies, where he went 14-19-3 with a 3.18 goals-against average and a .893 save percentage. He was dealt to Anaheim at the trade deadline and finished the season with the Marlies.

Still, when the clock struck midnight on the start of free agency on July 1, Detroit was on the horn trying to recruit him.

Not that it took much selling.

"I played a lot of hockey there, know a lot of people there," MacDonald said. "I’ve played in a lot of organizations. They’re at the top of the class. It’s just a great feeling to know they have a great team, you know they are going to be in the playoff hunt."

MacDonald’s greatest contribution toward that end may not add a single digit to his impressive career totals. Instead, he can play a larger role by helping to nudge prospect Thomas McCollum, Detroit’s first-round pick in 2008, toward grabbing some of his own room in the franchise record books.

"I think now I’m more or less a role model for the young guys," MacDonald said. "When you have a young guy like McCollum behind you, you know he’s going to be watching every second. That’s what I’m looking forward to. Every day you want to go to the rink and strap your skates on."

Lindsay Kramer is the AHL correspondent for Read today’s complete column here.