Detroit — Approximately 15 of Anthony Mantha’s family and friends will be in attendance tonight when the Red Wings face the Canadiens.
But who will they be cheering for?
“All my family grew up as Montreal fans,” said Mantha after Thursday’s morning skate. “All my friends grew up as Montreal fans.
“I’m trying to convert them to Detroit.”
Really, could it have worked out any better for Mantha, in terms of his Joe Louis Arena regular season debut?
Tight playoff chase, sure to be a noisy crowd, and he’s playing against his hometown team, the Canadiens.
Mantha acknowledged this is as good as it gets.
“I couldn’t have expected more for my first game,” Mantha said. “It’s just a huge game for me and we need a big two points.
“It’s exciting. It’s going to be a great game.”
Among the family in town for tonight’s game is Mantha’s grandfather, Andre Pronovost.
A four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Canadiens, Pronovost also played with the Red Wings during his career and was someone Mantha wanted to emulate.
“He was my idol, and I’m just trying to follow (his) steps and trying what he did by winning four Stanley Cups,” Mantha said. “I’ve talked to him a few times a month every year, so it’s great fun for him to be here right now.
“I’m just happy all my family could come down. We’re all pretty excited. It’s a big road trip for them, they wanted to come up for the first home game. It’s going to be great.”
Goaltender Petr Mrazek will get the start this evening, said coach Jeff Blashill. Mrazek has been hindered with an illness and missed two games late last week because of it, but came on in relief of Jimmy Howard in Tuesday’s loss against Tampa Bay.
... Blashill said everyone is available to play, but added that any lineup changes would be made after the pregame skate.
…Teams such as Montreal, out of the playoff chase, are dangerous this time of season, Blashill said. “They have young, eager guys in the lineup who want to show they’re NHL players,” Blashill said. “(They’re) without the pressure of having to win, but we also know there’s such a fine line in the NHL between teams that whether you’re in or out of the playoffs, you’re a real good hockey team."