Red Wings set to face old friend, teammate Anthony Mantha in Washington

Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings have seen former teammates get traded. That isn’t unusual.

But seeing Anthony Mantha dealt to the Washington Capitals at last season’s deadline for Jakub Vrana and draft picks was a bit jarring.

Mantha had just signed a new contract, was considered a central piece in the Wings’ rebuild and the move was made moments before the deadline expired.

The Mantha shuffle took Dylan Larkin by surprise. Facing him for the first time Wednesday will be a bit uneasy.

“Big ones (trades) like that, they’re shocking to the guys in the room,” Larkin said. “I’m sure Anthony knows it, it wasn’t going well for many guys last year. (But) he’s excited about his opportunity over there and we’re excited to have Jakub. Trades happen.

“It was shocking at the moment but it’s part of the game. You see it every day. You have to deal with it and show up and play.”

More: Lucas Raymond securing his spot in Red Wings’ lineup, rookie history

Mantha has two goals and two assists in six games this season. Vrana underwent shoulder surgery during training camp and will be unavailable until late January/early February.

Mantha has maintained his residence in the Detroit area and kept in contact with many Wings. He was popular among teammates. Larkin admits it’ll feel different playing against his friend.

“It will be strange,” Larkin said. “I’ve talked to him, he was back here in the summer training here. I expect him to be highly motivated and when we’ve seen that out of him, he can be a dangerous player.

“We have to be ready. They’re playing well right now and they can score, so we have to defend.”

The fact the traded occurred in April, and there’s been months to digest it, diminishes some of the impact, coach Jeff Blashill said.

“Certainly he was a big piece of our group and really good friends to a number of our players,” Blashill said. “So that will always be different for those guys. But I also think, again, it’s a new season and it’ll be more about getting opportunities for guys that are good friends to say ‘hi’ and compete against each other.

“I don’t expect it to be a real big deal.”

Hronek’s return?

The way defenseman Filip Hronek was being used during Tuesday’s practice, it appeared he was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the last two games.

Gustav Lindstrom (undisclosed injury) wasn’t able to practice. Blashill said Lindstrom will not be available for Wednesday’s game and possibly through the weekend. More reason to believe Hronek will be back.

Larkin, the team’s captain, has talked with Hronek, who is one of the Wings’ core players for the future.

“I talk to him on a daily basis, he’s a well-respected guy in the locker room,” Larkin said. “Guys love him and we want to be there for him. He’ll show up for us, we know that.”

Promising start

Sunday’s convincing victory in Chicago, after two straight losses, including a bad defeat Saturday in Montreal, was a good step for a promising young team.

“We didn’t have it against Montreal and Calgary, and we snapped right out of it and that’s a huge response as a young team,” Larkin said. “Tough back to back, with travel, that was a big response for our team and I really liked our attitude. There was a nice, calm presence. It felt great.

“When we’ve won (this season) it feels repeatable. In the past when we’ve won, it was a grind. It was hard. It feels like we can keep winning and when you have that confidence. It’s huge in this league.”

Blashill feels good about the way the Wings have played thus far.

“I like the fact we’ve played with high compete, emotion and energy throughout large parts of these six games,” Blashill said. “That can be a separator through an 82-game schedule. I also think we’re getting better, individually and collectively as a group, and that will be real important.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

Red Wings at Capitals

 Faceoff: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

 TV/radio: BSD/97.1

► Outlook: The Capitals (4-0-2) have had a fine start, one of six teams who have yet to have a regulation-time loss. … LW Alex Ovechkin is off to a blazing start, with a league-leading seven goals and 12 points … This will be the Wings’ only trip to Washington this season.

— Ted Kulfan

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