Red Wings’ season gets more difficult: Anthony Mantha out at least one month

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – This isn’t going to help the Red Wings turn around this difficult season.

Forward Anthony Mantha will be out at least a month because of a rib injury, Coach Jeff Blashill said Friday.

Anthony Mantha

Mantha suffered the injury Dec. 21 in a scrum with Toronto defenseman Jake Muzzin. Mantha confronted Muzzin late in the 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.

Blashill said there’s no issue with Mantha’s head or shoulder, and the injury is concentrated to the rib area.

“We expect Anthony to be out a while,” Blashill said. “What’s a while? I’d probably say minimum four weeks. He’s got some, what I’d call, rib-type issues and things associated with that.”

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Mantha is second on the Wings in goals (12) and points (24), despite missing nine games this season.

When Mantha was out for eight games with a knee injury recently, the Wings went 1-7-0 and struggled to score goals.

Somehow, they must chip in offensively to make up for Mantha’s offense going forward.

“Definitely he’s a key piece of the puzzle we’re missing,” forward Robby Fabbri said. “You hear about every team, and the next man up mentality. It’s kind of what we have to do here. We can’t solely rely on Mo to score the goals when he’s in.

“Guys are ready to step up and do their part to help turn this around.”

Robby Fabbri

Playing better team defense, said forward Valtteri Filppula, would also help compensate for Mantha’s loss.

“When you play good defensively, you don’t have to score as many goals,” Filppula said. “Try to win games another way.”

Blashill had Andreas Athanasiou skating and replacing Mantha, with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi on the top line during Friday’s practice. The Wings play Saturday night at Florida.

Athanasiou has struggled this season, with only 17 points (five goals, 12 assists). This could be an opportunity for Athanasiou to beginning salvaging this season for himself personally.

“I had Athanasiou on that line with Larkin and Bertuzzi today, and certainly Athanasiou has the ability to play at a high level,” Blashill said. “I’m hoping he can step in and play at a high level.”

Nice break

The Wings returned to the ice Friday after not having any practice or games since Sunday.

It was an outstanding time for a break, given the schedule and losing ways the Red Wings have had since October.

“Especially with the schedule we’ve had, we had a busy schedule there in November and a few one-game trips to Canada; it all wears on the boys,” Fabbri said. “Just to get away and spend time with the family and not think about the game for a little bit, it was nice to come back and start working again.”

Blashill noticed a good jump and spirit at Friday’s practice, and felt the time away was helpful.

“There was pretty good life and guys were excited to be back,” Blashill said. “I know personally, when you get days off during the year, you start being eager to get back and work, and they were eager to get back and play.”

The Wings also were fortunate to practice and fly to their next destination on the same day, rather than flying on game day, going through a morning skate, and then playing later, as many teams were doing Friday.

Ice chips

Goaltender Jonathan Bernier (groin) could be ready to play Sunday in Tampa Bay. Bernier was also hurt in the Dec. 21 game in Toronto.

Goaltender Calvin Pickard was recalled from Grand Rapids, just in case, and practiced Friday.

… Forward Filip Zadina and defenseman Brian Lashoff were also both recalled, after being sent down earlier in the week, for salary-cap purposes. Zadina, though, did actually go to Grand Rapids, to check on his apartment and spend time with friends during the holidays, he said.

Red Wings at Panthers

Faceoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, BB&T Center, Sunrise, Fla.

TV/radio: FSD Plus/97.1 FM

Outlook: Both teams return from the holiday break headed in different directions. … The Red Wings (9-26-3) have lost four consecutive games and are last in the NHL; the Panthers (18-13-5) are five points behind a playoff spot. … LW Jonathan Huberdeau (34 assists, 48 points) leads offensively, but goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (3.20 GAA, .899 SVS) needs to play better.

Twitter: @tkulfan