Red Wings debut line of Larkin, Athanasiou, Mantha

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Grosse Pointe Woods — The Red Wings were poised to look at a few new things as the preseason continued with a game Wednesday against an old rival, the Bruins.

During split-squad practices earlier Wednesday at University Liggett School, coach Jeff Blashill said that a much-anticipated line of Dylan Larkin centering Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha would be the top line.

“I hope they’re great,” Blashill said. “I’m not sure what the lineup looks like for Boston. If most of the guys are American league guys, they should be really good when they go in if they’re the type of players we think they are.

“There’s obviously lots of speed and skill on that line. In the Red and White Game (at training camp), they made some mistakes that ended up in our net, so they’ve got to eliminate those.”

Mantha scored the team's fourth goal with Larkin and Athanasiou assisting in a 5-1 victory over the Bruins.

Goalie Jared Coreau started, with the intention of playing his first complete NHL game, albeit in preseason. He made 35 saves in in the Wings' win. Coreau may be establishing himself as a goalie with an NHL future.

“He’s a six-feet-seven goaltender who has gotten an extreme amount better since he got to Grand Rapids,” Blashill said. “He looks like an NHL goalie.

“His biggest improvement is learning how to use his size and calming his game down … Now, he’s much calmer. He lets the puck come to him.

“I think Jared’s really worked hard.”

Filling out

Mantha is bigger, and the 2013 first round pick wants more games with the Wings than the 10 he managed last season.

Tall, 6-feet-5, when drafted, he is now brawnier.

The 22 year-old said adding bulk and muscle, while maintaining speed and agility, was the key to his offseason.

“I just bore down and ate maybe seven or eight times a day, just to put body weight on,” said the native of Longueuil, Quebec. “And I came down to Detroit a month, a month-and-a-half ago to work out with (Luke) Glendening and Larkin.

“Right now, I’m at a good body weight. I just want to maintain it.”

Breakfast, Mantha said, was often, “a smoothie with egg whites, fruits, almond milk, just before a workout, to fill me up.

“Then, two hours later, I would eat a regular meal. Then, a bigger meal around 12:30 or 1, and a snack around three-ish, Another big meal at six. Then, two snacks during the night.

“So, it’s just like eating over and over again.”

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Having played with Athanasiou often over two seasons in Grand Rapids, Mantha said he is looking forward to playing with Larkin, “a great player,” too.

He said Blashill has made their charge clear.

“If we hold on to the puck and create plays offensively, it’s going to be tough for the other teams to get anything out of it,” he said, of preventing goals. “But for sure it is a little key he wants us to bear down on.

“He just wants us to be good two-way guys, and get something going offensively.”

Vision quest

To improve his game, Coreau has engaged in some high-tech drills for his eyes.

“We just call it vision training,” said the former Northern Michigan goalie who has played in the organization for three seasons.

“It’s a light board. You look at a small screen in front of you and there is five rows, or five circles of lights. And then different lights will light up and you have to hit them before the time runs out.”

The time expires in a range from 0.3 seconds to 0.7 seconds.

“It’s just for peripheral training,” said the native of Perth, Ontario. “Keep you focus on one point, and then react to others.
“It’s helped, a lot.”

Ice chips

Blashill said goalie Petr Mrazek will play Sunday against the Blackhawks and Justin Abdelkader sometime next week, after both returned from the World Cup of Hockey

… He said he hopes to use defenseman prospect Filip Hronek, 18, Friday against the Bruins