Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill on Anthony Mantha: "Sometimes young players have to be reminded how hard you have to play." Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
Detroit – Anthony Mantha’s phone was blowing up a half-hour after Wednesday night’s game.
By then, coach Jeff Blashill’s critical comments about Mantha – basically saying Mantha has to play better for the Red Wings – were all over social media.
“People tweet you and then you’re wondering what is happening because you don’t see the comments,” Mantha said after Thursday’s practice.
But once Mantha read and heard the comments, he understood where Blashill was coming from.
“You don’t like hearing those but it happens,” Mantha said. “My game isn’t where I want it to be the last three games. I’ve been floating around a little too much.”
Blashill singled out Mantha after the big forward had a quiet three shots on net and was a minus-1 while playing 18:49 in Detroit’s 6-2 loss to Edmonton.
The Red Wings' Anthony Mantha regrets "floating around too much" in recent games. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
“One thing with Anthony, I’ve told him this, for us to be great he has to be great, and that comes with a lot of responsibility,” Blashill said. “That comes with pressure. If I didn’t think he was good enough to be a great player, I wouldn’t do it. But he’s all those things.
“Sometimes as a young player you have to be reminded how hard you have to play in order to be great and the impact when you don’t.”
Mantha didn’t mind that Blashill went public with the criticism. (Blashill did talk with Mantha privately before Thursday’s practice.)
“Not really; it just makes it a bigger deal when he goes to the press (before me),” Mantha said. “But for me, it’s just keep playing my game.
“If I play my game, I can be an impact player. I’ve shown it this year a couple of times, and when I’m not involved in the plays and have a blank scoresheet – and it’s happened a couple of times lately – I have to step up.”
Anthony Mantha says coach Jeff Blashill told him he needs to play his best every night for the Red Wings to be a winning team. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
Mantha leads the Red Wings with 10 goals and his 19 points rank second to Dylan Larkin’s 20.
Mantha had 17 goals last season, but there were several times he was either benched or was a healthy scratch because of sub-par effort on the ice.
Blashill said Thursday he received a positive response from Mantha regarding whether Mantha wanted the responsibility and pressure that comes with a lot of ice time.
“Sometimes you have to be slapped in the face a little bit to make sure to get the understanding, and he in particular understands the responsibility of the minutes he’s been given,” Blashill said.
Mantha has been through adversity in the minor leagues, when senior vice-president Jimmy Devellano was critical of Mantha’s slow development.
“He’s worked through it and it’s important to understand what it’s going to take,” Blashill said.
Off to New York
The Red Wings gathered for a light practice Thursday and immediately flew to New York afterward.
Not much time for a turkey dinner with family or friends. But everyone realizes it’s part of being a professional athlete.
“We’re fortunate we’ve been home for a good stretch and we’ll continue to be home through mid-December,” forward Justin Abelkader said. “So when you can spend time with family, whether it’s on Thanksgiving or a few days after or before, it’s nice to be able to spend time with them.”
Hockey players are used to playing or traveling on Thanksgiving for tournaments earlier in their careers.
“I’m used to it,” forward Luke Glendening said. “All through college we were always on the road. It’s a great holiday and there’s a lot of fun going around but we do have Christmas coming up and that makes it easier.”
The NHL has three days off from Dec. 24-26; there are no games or practices.
“I’ve spent tons of Thanksgivings on the road recruiting,” said Blashill of his days as a college coach. “Not that Thanksgiving’s not important but you just learn that part of your business and part of your job is that holidays don’t mean as much to my family and me as they mean to other families because we don’t get to be there.
“Christmas, again, is one we’ve always had off, so that’s always been a really special time for me and my family.”
Forward Scott Wilson suffered a lower-body injury after blocking a shot in the second period Wednesday, but Wilson practiced Thursday and Blashill was confident Wilson will play against the Rangers.
… The Red Wings have lost two consecutive games to teams playing on the second night of back-to-backs.
“I know one thing for certain – we better never use back-to-backs as an excuse for the rest of the year,” Blashill said. “I know that for certain because we haven’t taken care of business the other way.”
RED WINGS AT RANGERS
Faceoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Madison Square Garden
TV / radio: Fox Sports Detroit / 97.1 FM
Outlook: The Rangers (11-9-2, 24 points) have sharply turned around their season, going 8-2-0 over their last 10 games. … G Henrik Lundqvist (2.71 GAA, .914 SVS) has led the resurgence.