Red Wings aren’t mad at Mantha for fighting, breaking hand

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In the rare hockey fight featuring a player who normally uses their hands to score goals, there’s a tug-of-war. On one hand, you cringe at the risks of said hands being broken. On the other, you have to acknowledge the natural danger of the sport, not to mention the emotions that come from sticking up for your teammates.

Such thoughts come to mind when you consider Detroit Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha, who will miss four-to-six weeks after breaking his hand in a fight with Colorado Avalanche defenseman Patrik Nemeth.

(You can watch that fight in the video above.)

Sure, there’s the inclination to wish that someone else might have taken care of that dirty work after Dylan Larkin absorbed a hard hit, but can you really blame Mantha? As MLive.com’s Ansar Khan reports, Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill certainly did not.

“There’s inherent risk in playing hockey, there’s inherent risk in getting into a fight,” Blashill said. “He was sticking up for Larkin, who got his head run against the boards. I know this, he’d do it again. And I’m good with him doing it again. We want to make sure we’re sticking up for each other. You’re not going anywhere at any time if you got a team that’s selfish and doesn’t care about each other.”

If you want to get into the weeds, you can quibble a bit with Blashill’s further points. He compared fighting to blocking shots or taking a hit to make a play. That might be pushing it just a touch, as those events are more attuned with the moment-to-moment functions of actually playing the sport, while sticking up for your teammate is often a combination of a sheer, guttural reaction and also “sending a message.” Theoretically, you don’t literally need to fight to thwart a scoring chance or advance the puck down the ice.

But, overall, it’s tough to get too mad at Mantha … although, seriously, the Red Wings might want to at least consider talking to him about taking that step.

After all, this isn’t actually his first injury stemming from a fight. As Khan recalls, Mantha’s 2016-17 season ended after he broke his finger in a March 2017 fight with Luke Witkowski:

As a large human (listed at 6-foot-5, 225 lbs.), one can understand why Mantha would be especially willing to drop the gloves. It might be tough to discourage him from doing so, although you could also conjure images of all the goals he missed out on in late 2016-17, and now these five-to-six weeks.

Of course, there’s a cynical reason for the Red Wings to shrug their shoulders now, while maybe convincing him to change course later: they might be that much more likely to lose games with Mantha on the shelf.

While this has been a hit-or-miss season for Mantha (nine goals, 14 points in 27 games), he’s one of Detroit’s most important forwards. Perhaps injuries like these will cajole the Red Wings into further embracing their at-times-reluctant rebuild, maybe by not re-signing Jimmy Howard and instead selling off aging players for future assets? At this point, any excuse helps.

Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the Avalanche ended up being quite costly for the Red Wings, primarily when punches were thrown. Not only did they lose Mantha to this injury, but Tyler Bertuzzi was also suspended two games for this incident:

Fighting simply hasn’t been friendly to the Red Wings lately. In Mantha’s case, it at least felt like an unforced error, even though the results ended up being far more painful (literally and figuratively).

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Red Wings host Blues on Wednesday Night Hockey

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues at the Detroit Red Wings at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

Here’s something that is delightful about the NHL in 2018: even struggling teams tend to bring real talent to the table.

The St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings fall under that category. That much was expected (if not always embraced) in Detroit, while the ups and downs prove to be a sobering reality for St. Louis.

[WATCH LIVE – 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

It must be frustrating for Ryan O'Reilly to watch the Sabres flourish with a 10-game winning streak during their first season without him, but you can’t blame ROR for Mike Yeo getting canned in favor of Craig Berube. O’Reilly has been more than just a great two-way forward; he’s been a star so far for the Blues. His 26 points lead all Blues, and by quite a bit, as also-great winger Vladimir Tarasenko has generated a mildly disappointing 18 points in 22 games.

With Alexander Steen back, the Blues are closer to 100 percent, even though Jaden Schwartz‘s frustrating health luck keeps him sidelined. If a Rob line (Robert Thomas and Robby Fabbri with honorary Rob Brayden Schenn) can provide St. Louis with some extra oomph, the Blues might just be onto something.

The Red Wings may be in a rebuild mode, but they’re not the usual layup you’d expect from a team facing such an outlook.

Their top line is a big reason why. Anthony Mantha‘s been on fire lately, while Dylan Larkin continues to prove that he’s a viable first-line center in the NHL.

Both the Blues and Red Wings have enjoyed prouder days, but it wouldn’t be a big upset if this ended up being a fun game nonetheless. For St. Louis, it might be something to build on for the nearer future, while the Red Wings aim to build a new foundation.

[Read more about this game in this extended preview]

What: St. Louis Blues at Detroit Red Wings
Where: Little Caesars Arena
When: Wednesday, November 28th, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Blues-Red Wings stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINES

BLUES

Alexander Steen — Ryan O’Reilly — Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri — Brayden Schenn — Robert Thomas

David PerronTyler BozakPatrick Maroon

Zach SanfordIvan BarbashevOskar Sundqvist

Vince DunnAlex Pietrangelo

Joel EdmundsonColton Parayko

Jay BouwmeesterJordan Schmaltz

Starting goalie: Chad Johnson

RED WINGS

Anthony Mantha — Dylan Larkin — Justin Abdelkader

Gustav NyquistFrans NielsenAndreas Athanasiou

Tyler BertuzziLuke GlendeningMichael Rasmussen

Thomas VanekJacob De La RoseMartin Frk

Trevor DaleyMike Green

Danny DeKeyserNick Jensen

Niklas KronwallDennis Cholowski

Starting goalie: Jimmy Howard

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Streaky Wings look to end losing skid vs. Blues

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings at 7:00 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Red Wings season has been a rollercoaster so far. They started the year with 0-5-2 and through 10 games, they were the worst team in the NHL (1-7-2). But they followed that up by winning nine of their next 11 contests. Now, they’ve lost three games in a row. Who are the real Red Wings?

With Henrik Zetterberg no longer in the picture, Dylan Larkin has been forced into a leadership role. The 22-year-old has put together a solid season, as he has nine goals and 21 points in 24 games this season. The speedster still has some work to do, but he’s looked good.

“He’s gotta be a great defensive player in order to allow that production to be enough to be a great player,” said head coach Jeff Blashill. “Very few guys can outproduce their poor defense, let’s say … and I think what he’s done is whenever he’s had to he’s reset himself, and make sure that he knows he’s gotta check for his chances. … It appears to me just a little more — I don’t know if confidence is the right word, swagger’s the right word, controlling the play is the right word — he seems to really, really be on top of it offensively.”

Andreas Athanasiou (10 goals, 15 points in 20 games) and Anthony Mantha (nine goals, five assists in 24 games) have helped carry the load offensively.

The Wings have also received some quality goaltending from veteran Jimmy Howard, who the Blues are reportedly interested in, per TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger. Howard owns a 7-6-3 record with a 2.68 goals-against-average and a .922 save percentage.

As for the Blues, you can understand why they’d be interested in acquiring a proven goaltender. Both Jake Allen and Chad Johnson haven’t been able to carry the load. Allen has been better over the last little while, but we’ve seen enough of him to know that darker times are ahead. Johnson, who has always been a backup goaltender, can’t be relied upon to win consistently.

St. Louis has already made a coaching change this season, as they let Mike Yeo walk. They replaced him with Craig Berube, but the results haven’t been there for Berube so far. They’re 1-2-0 since he took over, including an embarrassing 8-4 loss to Winnipeg over the weekend.

“There were missed coverages in a lot of areas,” Berube said. “We let that game slip away from us…I thought we lacked energy in that Winnipeg game, which I expected, but our brains kind of turned off too, which was not a good thing.”

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Bank shots and three-pointers

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Three Stars

1. Anthony Mantha

You don’t often see someone get the top star in a losing effort, and people can certainly make an argument for a number of players being the standout from Monday’s action.

From here, it’s tough to argue with Mantha’s man-sized night. He tied for the Monday lead with three points via two goals and one assist, and Mantha really asserted himself with a whopping 10 shots on goal.

Despite being in such a high-scoring game and a losing effort, the Red Wings winger managed a +2 rating for the night.

There were other players from Columbus’ 7-5 win against Detroit who have an argument for top billing. Pierre Luc-Dubois generated three points, including the GWG. Then again, one of his points came on an empty-netter, while teammate Artemi Panarin‘s three points happened with a goalie in Detroit’s net.

You could put the trio of Mantha, PLD, and Panarin as the top three, but then you’d really be killing fun.

2. Jonathan Huberdeau

The Panthers needed every one of Huberdeau’s three points to edge the Devils in overtime on Monday.

To start, he grabbed a secondary assist to help Florida get back in the game, as they fell behind 2-0 early. Huberdeau scored the 3-3 goal that sent the contest to overtime, a significant tally that also stands as the 100th of his young NHL career.

(Imagine how many Huberdeau would have – and how many additional wonky Scooby Doo puns we’d experience – if he didn’t deal with occasional injury headaches?)

Mike Hoffman rightfully earned the most attention for his overtime-winner after nearly ending the overtime period moments earlier, yet Huberdeau also collected the primary assist on that OTGWG.

Overall, a very nice outing for a player who’d gain more recognition if he could consistently stay healthy and if the Panthers could enjoy some greater team success.

3. Tom Wilson

This post goes into detail about Wilson’s red-hot start to his season (which was delayed, of course, by that polarizing suspension). Long story short, the hard-hitting Capitals winger generated two goals and one assist in helping Washington beat its former coach Barry Trotz and the Isles.

Wilson finished Monday with six SOG, a +1 rating, two hits, one blocked shot, and won his lone faceoff.

His assist came on Alex Ovechkin‘s empty-netter, so number three he is.

Braden Holtby ranks among the goalies who had arguments for being included, as he shook off an early goal to make 32 saves. Frederik Andersen stopped 38 shots, but did allow two goals; his Maple Leafs teammate Mitch Marner‘s three assists ranks him as an honorable mention (getting dinged ever-so-slightly for one helper being on an ENG).

Highlights of the Night

Again, Hoffman would not be denied. Eventually.

Jack Edwards’ call was almost as impressive as Torey Krug‘s pass on one of David Pastrnak‘s goals from the Bruins’ losing effort:

That was a sweet dish, but this Panarin pass inspired the bank shots/three-pointers headline:

(Hmm, maybe Panarin should be one of the three stars. What do you think?)

Factoids

Patrick Marleau‘s keeping up pretty nicely for a guy who played in his 1,600th(!) NHL regular-season game, eh?

At first, this seems like a goofily specific stat, but it might make people feel better about wondering if we’re experiencing something of a throwback offensive season.

At this rate, Freddy Andersen might just grab a three star nod the next time he faces the Bruins:

Scores

TOR 4 – BOS 2
FLA 4 – NJD 3 (OT)
WSH 4 – NYI 1
NYR 4 – OTT 2
CBJ 7 – DET 5

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Red Wings need Larkin to step up in new era

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DETROIT (AP) — Dylan Larkin has suddenly become a veteran at the age of 22 for the Detroit Red Wings.

”It could be the first time I’m not the youngest guy on the team,” Larkin said. ”That’s why I’m growing out this beard.”

The rebuilding Red Wings are desperately hoping the talented, two-way center can quickly become a leader on and off the ice. They suffered a setback before the season even started when captain Henrik Zetterberg‘s back injury ended his career.

”It’s a massive loss,” general manager Ken Holland acknowledged. ”No one person is going to be able to replace one of the greatest Red Wings of all time.”

Larkin is likely the one player who can come closest to filling the void this season. He signed a $30.5 million, five-year deal last summer after leading the team with career highs in assists (47) and points (63) in his third season.

Detroit did not make the playoffs last year for the second straight year after earning a spot in the postseason 25 straight times. A lot will have to go right for the Red Wings to avoid missing out on the playoffs again, a three-year drought that would be their longest since 1979-83.

Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman led the franchise’s resurgence after being named captain in 1986 at the age of 21 until his retirement in 2006. Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom then wore the ‘C’ for the next several seasons before ending his career and starting Zetterberg’s run as captain.

”(Larkin) has a drive like those guys no doubt about it,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said as he prepared for his 15th season with the Red Wings. ”He stays on the ice late. Sometimes he’s on the ice before skates. And sometimes, he skates with Little Caesars (youth) teams because he just loves being on the ice.”

While Larkin seems like a likely candidate to become the next captain, he may have to wait.

”My guess is we would be we’d go with three alternates this year,” Kronwall said. ”Then over the next year or two, things will naturally have their way and the next guy will be the Red Wings’ captain for a long time. Larkin is a natural leader and hopefully he’ll take more steps to grow even more into that role and I would not be surprised if that happened down the road.”

UP FRONT

Detroit is retooling around a trio of promising, young forwards: Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou. All three signed multiyear contract last summer. Filip Zadina may not make an impact in the NHL right away, but teammates say the Czech winger taken No. 6 overall this year won’t take long.

”You can tell how he handles the puck and skates that he’s going to be something special,” Kronwall said.

THE D IN THE D

Defense appears to be the weakest part of the team. The back end is led by the 37-year-old Kronwall and Trevor Daley. Mike Green is expected to miss the season-opening game and it out indefinitely with a virus. Green signed a two-year contract worth $10-plus million after he had a season-ending surgery on his spine last spring.

IN NET

Detroit appears to have a solid tandem in goal: Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier. Howard, who made his Red Wings debut nearly 13 years ago, was 22-27-9 last season with a 2.85 goals-against average. He may not have to play 60 games again because Bernier has 10 years of experience and played in at least 37 games the previous three years for three teams: Colorado, Anaheim and Toronto.

”We think we have a solid 1-2 punch in net,” Holland said. ”That should help us stay in games and be competitive.”

COACHING CONTINUITY

Coach Jeff Blashill enters the final year of his contract with a 104-105-37 record over three years.

”The team played hard for him and we lost 27 games by a goal,” Holland said. ”There’s no doubt he’s a better coach than he was a year or two ago because of the experience.”

CAPTAIN COMEBACK?

Yzerman stepped down as Tampa Bay Lightning general manager earlier this month to become a senior advise and speculation swirled that the move paved the way for the former Detroit star known as ”The Captain,” to return to run the Red Wings. Holland has two years left on his contract.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at https://twitter.com/larrylage

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule