| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Red Wings’ Anthony Mantha breaks down start of training camp
Anthony Mantha describes the expectations for 2021 Detroit Red Wings training camp on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020.
Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press
Making do with running their own practices has grown a bit mundane for the Detroit Red Wings, so ringing in a new year and a new training camp Friday is very welcome.
Anthony Mantha is one of multiple players who have been skating at the practice facility inside Little Caesars Arena for the past month while waiting for the NHL to figure out how to have a season amid a pandemic. The Wings open a 56-game slate Jan. 14 against the Carolina Hurricanes, placing more intensity on a 14-day camp that won’t allow for exhibition games.
“Everyone is excited to be back at the rink, everyone is excited to get going,” Mantha said Thursday. “Hopefully we can carry that into the season.”
General manager Steve Yzerman has brought in forwards Bobby Ryan and Vladislav Namestnikov, defensemen Marc Staal, Jon Merrill and Troy Stecher, and goaltender Thomas Greiss, signaling a more competitive environment.
“I’ve been skating with Bobby for over a month now,” Mantha said. “He is one of the guys I have seen the most. He is playing really good, practicing really good. He has great skills. I can’t wait to see it in games.”
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The Wings won 17 games in 2019-20, enduring a miserable season after starting 3-1. Now they face a season that has been carved up to counter COVID-19, playing seven opponents (the Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning) eight times each in 115 days.
“We are playing so many games in such a tight schedule that maybe the physicality is kind of wear off a little bit,” Mantha said. “It’s either one or the other — it’s hard to tell right now. We will see after a couple games how it goes.”
Mantha is among a group of Wings skating in the metro Detroit area since September, trying to feign games with other NHL players who live in the area.
It has been a grind.
“We didn’t really play games or scrimmages or anything like that,” Mantha said. “We did before we moved into LCA, with pretty good players from around the league before they went back to their home cities. But in the past month, it’s been pretty tough to get scrimmages going.”
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Teams can carry 23 players instead of the usual 21 and have a taxi squad ranging from four to six players. Having extra players is vital considering the likelihood that some either test positive for the virus or are exposed to someone who is, requiring quarantine.
“You get COVID, you are out for 14 days, plus a couple days to come back,” Mantha said. “You’re missing, basically, 10 games.”
Mantha sounded enthusiastic about the upcoming season. While Detroit should be better after Yzerman’s adjustments, making the playoffs is unlikely. But it’s been a challenging year and everyone should start the new one with hope.
“We want to prove people wrong,” Mantha said. “It’s been the message for two years now that, yes, we are in a rebuild, but we want to get to the next step. We don’t want to be in rebuild mode for five more years. We want to finish it this year. We had a great start last year, so hopefully we can great start and build off that and … keep things going for a playoff push.”
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.