Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill sends message, makes Anthony Mantha healthy scratch

Detroit News

Ted Kulfan
 
| The Detroit News

Anthony Mantha had begun to score goals, but obviously wasn’t doing a lot of the other things that coach Jeff Blashill demands.

That was obvious Sunday, as Blashill took the bold step of making Mantha a healthy scratch in Sunday’s 4-1 victory over Florida.

After a poor start to this season, Mantha had scored goals in three consecutive games before not getting on the scoresheet Friday in Tampa in yet another listless performance.

So, Blashill decided Sunday to let Mantha watch, hoping to shake Mantha out of his doldrums.

“I just made the decision to go with the group I went with,” said Blashill, of the decision to bench Mantha. “I just made the decision to go with the group I went with and any conversations I have with Anthony, to me, are private.”

The Wings re-signed Mantha, a restricted free agent in the offseason, to a four-year contract worth $22.8 million ($5.7 million salary-cap hit) signifying he’s one of the building blocks of the organization moving forward.

But Mantha, 26, has been inconsistent and largely ineffective through the start of this shortened NHL season. Through 12 games, Mantha has four goals and three assists (seven points), with a team-worst minus-8 plus-minus rating.

Blashill took Mantha off the Wings’ top line (heading into the season) with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi within the first week of the season, and benched Mantha in the third period of a loss in Chicago after consecutive poor defensive plays.

Mantha rebounded with two good efforts in Dallas, and began a three-game goal streak during a weekend series against Florida.

But Mantha only played 14 minutes, 29 seconds and 15:10 in the two games in Tampa, and Blashill wasn’t pleased, despite the goal-scoring.

“I don’t think you can judge a player just on offensive output,” said Blashill late last week. “There are moments in the game he’s done what he needs to do, and that’s skate, and there are moments where he hasn’t done enough of it, and we’ll continue to work on it.”

Gordie Howe hat trick

Forward Givani Smith had never heard of the Gordie Howe Hat Trick — a goal, assist and fight, all in a single game.

But Smith notched the milestone during Sunday’s victory over Florida, capping the afternoon with a fight (which Smith arguably won) against Florida’s Aaron Ekblad after Smith hit Ekblad’s defensive partner MacKenzie Weeger hard along the boards.

“No, I never heard of it,” said Smith after the game, of the hat trick named after the Wings’ legend. “After the game, they (teammates) were saying I got one but I’m not sure what it is.”

But aside from the definition, Smith was pleased to contribute to the victory.

“It’s going pretty good,” Smith said. “I had a long break to prepare (for the season) and I just wanted to be humanly ready to prepare for moments like these and opportunities to play.”

Smith brings attributes of size and physicality, along with sneaky skill, that the Wings could use on a regular basis.

“Tonight was a great example of what he brings to the team, what he’s been bringing every night he’s been in the lineup,” forward Robby Fabbri said. “He’s had a great mentality and mindset around the rink coming in when he’s needed and doing his job. He did a little bit of everything with the hits, goals, fight, assists. That’s what we need from him every night he’s in the lineup.”

Ice chips

Luke Glendening was lost to the Wings in the first period after taking a hard hit near the head area by Florida defenseman Radko Gudas. Blashill wasn’t sure about Glendening’s availability for Tuesday.

“He seemed like he was in a good spot,” said Blashill, of Glendening after the game. “We’ll see where he’s at (Tuesday).”

… Danny DeKeyser and Valtteri Filppula joined Mantha as healthy scratches. Mathias Brome took Mantha’s spot on a line with Fabbri and Bobby Ryan.

… The Wings defeated Florida in regulation time for the first time since Jan. 5, 2018 (a 4-2 Wings victory), a span of 10 games.

… Panthers coach Joel Quenneville credited the Wings with a fine defensive effort. “I didn’t think we had the quality or the quantity (of shots) that we would’ve liked, but they played hard today, they played well in front of him (goaltender Thomas Greiss),” Quenneville said. “(We) didn’t get enough shots through or enough traffic to get the quality that we wanted.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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