'I’m not going to stop fighting': Red Wings' Mantha nears return but won't change

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Anthony Mantha

Detroit – If you’re waiting for Anthony Mantha to stop fighting, it’s going to be a long wait.

So, don’t bother.

Mantha returned to practice, taking part in Monday’s morning skate, after recovering from ligament damage to his knuckle during a Dec. 2 fight with Colorado’s Patrik Nemeth.

Mantha has been out since the fight and isn’t expected to return to game action for another week.

Nemeth appeared to make contact with Dylan Larkin’s head on a borderline hit, and Mantha wasn’t going to let that happen without retribution.

“It happens,” Mantha said of his injury, the second time in his career Mantha has suffered a hand injury during a fight. “I’m not going to stop fighting if there’s a need to fight. We’ll see how it goes. Next time, hopefully, I get out of it without an injury.

“It sucks being out so long. But it’s a part of hockey and fighting belongs in hockey.”

Mantha said “I didn’t think twice” about going after Nemeth.

“If you (opposing teams) do start taking cheap shots, then other teams will take notice and they’ll be abusing our team,” Mantha said.

Mantha knew when he skated to the penalty box, and sat down, that he did something to his hand -- although Mantha didn’t get much confirmation from teammate Tyler Bertuzzi, who was already be in the box.

“Bertuzzi was in there and I just flexed it and you look at your knuckles and hands and I saw it swollen,” Mantha said. “I closed my fist and I saw a little movement that wasn’t normal.
“I put my hand down, and I asked Bert whether that was normal and he says, ‘I don’t know I’m not (expletive) doctor.'

“I just started laughing (but) I knew something was wrong.”

More: Team defense is Job 1 for slumping Red Wings

The one positive for Mantha, and the Wings, was he was able to get plenty of quality off-ice work the entire month.

Mantha has done plenty of skating, taking several power skating lessons when he was in Montreal during the holiday break.

Mantha returned to Detroit on Wednesday and has skated with injured defenseman Danny DeKeyser (upper body) for the last several days.

“Mostly lower-body (training), pretty much summer training,” said Mantha, comparing the workouts. “Body-wise, it’s like September (the start of training camp).”

Coach Jeff Blashill talked with Mantha about doing the extra conditioning work when the injury diagnosis came out.

“We talked about using it to your advantage, rather than disadvantage,” Blashill said. “Sometimes it’s hard during the year. You get worn down, you’re playing, it’s hard to keep yourself to the same physicality you do when you come into camp.

“So, let’s be sure to really bust it, and he did. He feels like he’s put the work in so he could step in and play tomorrow, although physically that’s not going to happen."

It appears Mantha will return either Sunday against Washington or Tuesday against Montreal.

'Pretty cool' gift 

The entire team presented defenseman Trevor Daley with a Sea-Doo watercraft after the morning skate, in recognition of Daley’s 1,000th game in the NHL last week.

“Pretty cool,” said Daley, who was legitimately surprised. “I don’t know what to say about these guys in here. We have a special group of guys that I love being around.

“For them to do that for me, I’m appreciative of it.”

Daley played his 1,000th game on the last road trip, and Frans Nielsen his 800th, so both were being mentioned when the watercraft was wheeled onto the ice.

“It was pretty cool,” Daley said. “I’m sure we’ll get on it (during the summer) for sure.”

Blashill wasn’t surprised by the team’s gesture, given Daley's presence on the team. 

“It’s one thing to play 1,000 games, but to have the impact on teammates the way he’s had his whole career,” Blashill said. “We saw it on this past trip, in Pittsburgh, in Dallas, and here, he’s a guy who has been loved everywhere he’s gone. It’s great to have that for him.”

Injury report

While Mantha should be back toward the end of his homestand, forward Darren Helm (shoulder) could be back sooner.

Blashill said he’s “certainly optimistic” Helm will return in the next few games. Helm has been out since being injured Nov. 17 in New Jersey.

DeKeyser and defenseman Mike Green (lower body) are likely to return around mid-January.


Twitter @tkulfan