Kanata, Ontario — A season that has been one of extreme ups and downs for Anthony Mantha was beginning to settle into some consistency.
And, then, the Red Wings went into hibernation for nine days.
No, Mantha was more than fine with it, actually.
“It came at a good time for everyone,” said Mantha, who had six points in the last nine games before the break. “It’s different than being out long-term with an injury. Being out for seven days on a vacation, it’s so much better on the mental side. It just feels good and refreshing.”
Mantha has 12 goals and 20 points in his 37 games this season, after leading the team with 24 goals a season ago.
Mantha got off to a miserable October, was demoted to the fourth line, but worked his way back with a torrid stretch playing on a line with Dylan Larkin.
Then, just as things were clicking, Mantha suffered a hand injury after getting into a fight, missing a month of games.
“You look back at the first games you played before the injury, some of them went super good, some of them were harder,” Mantha said. “You kind of think about that for a full month and there’s nothing you can do about it except work out and hope for a fast recovery.
“When I came back, I was ready to play. I’m playing pretty good hockey, so I need to keep pushing forward and do the best I can.”
Mantha would like to get to that 24-goal total of last season, and is optimistic he can exceed that figure.
“I want to get more than that,” Mantha said. “You always try to get better year after year. With 15 games missed, I’m pretty much halfway through the season. If I’m healthy the rest of the season, I could put it into an extra gear or two and put in more goals, more points, hopefully get a good playoff push (for the team).”
Yes, Mantha did say playoffs. And it’s a topic Mantha maintains is realistic for the Wings, despite how the standings look.
“We saw some stats that in the last 15 games we were in the top in 10 shots on net, goals, stuff like that,” Mantha said. “We just need to keep doing that and have better special teams. We could win a lot of games if we do.”
The Wings aren’t the old, crusty veteran bunch they’ve been in past years.
This is a younger roster, about to getting younger in the years ahead, and there’s a level of learning on the job.
Defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who scored Friday’s overtime winning goal against Toronto, feels this particular group is learning quite nicely.
"We’re maturing a little bit as a group,” DeKeyser said. “Obviously, we’ve got a little bit of a younger team than we’ve had in the past, this year. Guys are beginning to find their way. That’s definitely good to see.”
Wings players enjoyed the pregame ceremony retiring Red Kelly’s No. 4.
“Really cool experience,” Gustav Nyquist said. “That was pretty cool to watch.”