Tampa, Fla. – Opportunity is crucial in the NHL. A player simply needs a chance for playing time to showcase his ability.
In the case of forward Filip Zadina, he is one Red Wing who stands to benefit from the absence of Anthony Mantha in the lineup.
Mantha is out for a minimum of a month with a rib injury.
With Mantha unavailable, Zadina is likely to see steady ice time on the top two or three lines, as well as opportunities on the Detroit power play.
“I played when he (Mantha) was here, so I’m not taking it like an opportunity,” said Zadina. “But I’m taking it like, just keep working and stay here and earn a spot.
“Obviously it’s a huge loss for our team. When he was back, the team was probably more confident. Right now he’s out a bit so we need to play better hockey and play better as a team.”
In 14 games with the Wings, Zadina has nine points (three goals) with a minus-2 rating. Zadina was on the second line Saturday night in Florida, playing with Darren Helm and Valtteri Filppula.
As the days go by, and the amount of time left in the regular season dwindles, it’s unlikely Zadina would be sent back to Grand Rapids – especially with the growing list of injured Red Wings forwards.
But Zadina isn’t taking anything for granted.
“It’s about myself, it’s about how I’m playing,” Zadina said. “If I’m playing good, I’ll stay. If I’m not, they’ll send me down. That’s reality.
“I have to work hard and earn my spot here.”
Good season for Helm
As the Wings entered Sunday night’s game at Tampa Bay, forwards Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader were the only Red Wings whose plus-minus rating weren’t negative; they were both even.
Helm has played in 38 games, Abdelakder 22. Helm has chipped in with six goals, the latest a nice breakaway goal Saturday against the Panthers.
On a team with not a lot of players having nearly their best seasons, Helm is definitely one who has played consistently effective hockey.
“He competitive, he works extremely hard and he cares a ton to do it right,” said coach Jeff Blashill, who has the luxury of using Helm up and down the forward lines, in a variety of roles. “In the end, he’s getting rewarded for that. That’s a big reason the plus-minus is where it’s at.
“It’s not a be-all, end-all stat. But when you compare it to the rest of the team, it’s indicative of his approach.
“He’s had a real good year.”
Leaving Howard out to dry
Goaltender Jimmy Howard continued a rough season Saturday in Florida, but again he didn’t get much help defensively from his teammates.
The Panthers had some prime scoring opportunities, leaving Howard to often fend for himself.
Howard fell to 2-13-1 for the season, with a 4.11 goals-against average and .884 save percentage. Howard as lost his last nine decisions, and hasn’t won a game since defeating Edmonton Oct. 29.
Blashill would like the Wings to lessen the amount of quality of scoring chances in front of Howard, to help the veteran goaltender out.
“I just think, for me, my first thing is we’re giving up too many scoring chances, and big chances, so let’s make sure to clean that up,” Blashill said.
Blashill said goaltender Jonathan Bernier (groin) would be available for Sunday’s start against Tampa, but not forward Valtteri Filppula.
Filppula was hurt in the second period of Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury.
With Filppula unavailable, Brendan Perlini returned into the lineup. Perlini has yet to score after 23 games this season, and has been a healthy scratch for three of the last six games.