CLOSE

Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill talked Thursday about Jimmy Howard and the importance of strong goaltending. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News

LINKEDIN 4 COMMENTMORE

Detroit — Here’s a sure sign the Montreal Canadiens were in town Thursday, minutes after an optional morning skate was completed:

There was a large swarm of media around forward Anthony Mantha.

Mantha, 23, has been in the NHL for two seasons, but he is from Longueuil, Quebec (“20 minutes from the Bell Centre,” Mantha said), and had a phenomenal career in the Quebec junior league.

So Montreal remains intrigued about one of its native sons.

And Mantha enjoys playing against the Canadiens; he has three goals in five career games against them.

“Against Montreal I do,” said Mantha, when asked whether he remembers his statistics against the Canadiens. “Because it’s my hometown team, and it’s always fun to be able to play against them.

“I probably don’t know every stat off the top of my head. But against Montreal, it’s been good.”

More: Blashill doesn’t fret over Zetterberg’s scoring drought

Mantha’s parents are in Detroit this week and will drive back to Montreal to catch Saturday’s game against the Red Wings at the Bell Centre.

Mantha is planning on having dinner Friday night with friends after the Red Wings land in Montreal.

“Just a pleasant time,” Mantha said. “I’ll enjoy it.”

Mantha grew up a Canadiens fan, but didn’t have a favorite individual player on the team. His favorite was Joe Sakic, the former Quebec Nordique / Colorado Avalanche star, with Steve Yzerman and Eric Lindros close behind.

Mantha and his family would go to two or three Canadiens games per season.

“And we’d watch every game (on TV),” Mantha said.

Since being singled out last week by coach Jeff Blashill as one player who the Red Wings needed more from, Mantha has been more active on the ice.

Mantha had a goal Saturday against New Jersey, and has nine shots in three games, with a minus-2 rating.

Blashill may have been taking a risk singling out Mantha, but the right buttons appears to have been pushed.

“What I know about Anthony is 100 percent he cares a ton,” Blashill said. “He wants to be a great player and he has the ability to be a great player.

“You can’t push those types of buttons if they don’t care and don’t have the ability. He and I have had conversations, and I’ve told him, ‘My job isn’t to let  you be OK – I want to help you be great.’

“And he has greatness in him. He is ready for that kind of pressure.”

BUYING IN

The Red Wings entered Thursday’s game with no victories in their last five, but there remains a positive belief in the locker room.

Players know what they must to do to be successful and believe the difference between wins and losses these last few games – three of the losses have been in overtime – has been small.

“We feel like we certainly could have won any of those games and we got points in them, so it’s not like we lost five games in regulation,” Blashill said. “Right now there’s no challenge to the buy-in of how we have to play to be successful.”

Defenseman Mike Green believes there’s a need to be more consistent in various areas.

“At times we’ve played real well and haven’t won, but we can’t make excuses,” Green said. “We’ve got to get our points. We want to achieve that consistency every night that you need to raise the bar as the season goes on. Teams are getting better, and that way, you want to keep up and stay ahead of them.

“Consistency is a key.”

ICE CHIPS

Blashill said defenseman Trevor Daley (neck) and forward Martin Frk (groin) are both game-time decisions, though it appeared Daley was a better bet of playing Thursday than Frk.

… Blashill thinks the Eastern Conference standings will be tight to the very end this season.

“There’s no bad teams in the East,” Blashill said. “Every team, every single night, is a battle. Every game is critical and I haven’t been shy about saying that.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tkulfan

LINKEDIN 4 COMMENTMORE