It was hard not to worry when the Red Wings ruled Jimmy Howard out of Sunday’s game with a lower-body injury, even as coach Jeff Blashill said it shouldn’t be a long-term issue.

The veteran goalie has a troubling history of knee and groin injuries. If his latest setback is of a similar nature, the implications are daunting for the Red Wings.

Last season Howard missed two weeks with a pulled groin, something that first popped up in 2014, and then was shelved for about three months with a sprained MCL, something that first popped up in 2013. Without him, the Wings struggled mightily.

In games that Howard didn’t start, Detroit won 23 of 60. He finished the year with a .927 save percentage, while the duo of Petr Mrazek and Jared Coreau combined for a .898.

A similar trend has taken hold this year. In Mrazek’s nine starts, the Wings have three wins. He has a .885 save percentage to Howard’s .916.

If Detroit has any hope of making a playoff push in the second half, Howard will have to lead the way. The question is, can he?

Before getting injured in Friday’s win over the Panthers, a game in which Howard kicked out 38 of 40 shots, he had started seven straight, 11 of 12 and was on pace for a career-high 65 starts. He said earlier this season he prefers a heavy workload, just like any goalie, and Blashill is of the belief that starting netminders in the NHL have begun to get more rest than they need.

But it’s fair to wonder if the Wings rode Howard too hard in the first half. Entering this season, he hadn’t reached the 60-start threshold in seven years, and the team suddenly upped his workload dramatically.