Detroit – The news regarding Anthony Mantha could have been a lot worse.
The Wings placed Mantha on injured reserve Sunday after Mantha was hurt late in Saturday night’s loss in Toronto. Mantha suffered some sort of upper-body injury. Shoulder? Concussion?
Mantha could return Dec. 29 in Tampa, but judging from coach Jeff Blashill’s comments before Sunday's game against Arizona, Mantha is still undergoing some evaluation and a timetable for a return is unclear.
“He’s not available tonight (Sunday), he’s not available for the first game after the break (Saturday in Florida), and past that, I don’t know,” Blashill said. “Right now, we’ll just leave it at that.
"I don't think it'll be anything long-term. I don't want to speak on something I don't have exact specifics on; we don't know the specifics yet. We're all going on break here. He's going to take a couple of days to rest and then when we get back (Friday), I'll have more on where he's at."
Mantha confronted Toronto defenseman Jake Muzzin late in Saturday’s game, after Muzzin hit defenseman Madison Bowey hard along the boards.
Muzzin dragged Mantha to the ice, hooking Mantha’s leg, causing Mantha to slam his head and shoulder area to the ice.
Mantha lay on the ice not moving, momentarily, but gradually got up and was helped off the ice. Several observers said Mantha left the arena with a shoulder sling.
There was immediate speculation as to whether Muzzin would be handed down discipline from the NHL. But Blashill said the NHL looked into the play, and informed general manager Steve Yzerman no suspensions would be handed out for the incident.
This is the third time in Mantha’s short career he has gotten hurt while coming to the aid of a teammate.
Though Blashill doesn't want Mantha to fight extensively, the coach wants to continue to see players stand up for teammates.
“Obviously you don’t want anyone to get hurt,” Blashill said. “It’s a real hard thing to say to guys you can’t look out for each other. Guys have to make that decision in real time. We want to be smart. I’ve talked to Mo about that we don’t need him fighting lots; that shouldn’t have to be his main role.
“But you’d rather have guys that look after each other than guys not looking after each other. That’s just the reality of sports.”
Mantha has 12 goals and 12 assists in 29 games with a minus-9 rating. He had just returned for four games, after being out with a knee injury suffered Nov. 30.
Now Mantha will have to come back, again, from injury, and attempt to catch up to the level he was at the beginning of the season.
"I didn't think he was quite going yet, either," Blashill said. "It's hard when this happens, when you go in and go out, because of injury, you kind of lose the rhythm in your game.
"He was still trying to find his legs and rhythm, and that's the concern when you put somebody back in the lineup. It'll be a challenge Anthony has to conquer."
Bernier, Erne out
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier (groin) and forward Adam Erne (undisclosed) were both injured Saturday and were not in the lineup against the Coyotes.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard was activated before Sunday's game and got the start.
Blashill wasn't sure when Bernier would be ready to play.
"We didn't put him on IR," Blashill said. "Whether he's available that first game after the break, I don't know yet. We'll see how the healing process goes."
Erne was replaced by Justin Abdelkader, who had been a healthy scratch the last two games.
"I don't think it's anything huge but he's (Erne) out for tonight," Blashill said. "He's played pretty good hockey the last little bit. Adam's trended up and he's played pretty good hockey."
Frans Nielsen, who was out due to illness Saturday, also played, essentially replacing Mantha.
"It's been interesting, it certainly has been challenging," said Blashill of the injuries. "When you lose guys that are real important to your team and if you're not super deep with NHL proven players, it gets more challenging.
"Now the thing is as a coach and as a team, you can't worry about what you don't have. You worry about what you have and those guys have go out and play great.
"The extent that you miss guys just depends on how well other guys play. So it is good opportunity for other guys"