The Detroit Red Wings are firmly in the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and losers of four straight games. They’ll look to shake things up tonight when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks for the last time in the Joe Louis Arena. Anthony Mantha is being held out of the lineup according to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, and he was extremely frustrated when he first heard the news. After a few hours to settle down though, Mantha is taking it as a learning experience.
Last few games, I haven’t really played the game I wanted. Winning a few battles one-on-one and being more intense in general, I think I can do that. That’s the message he’s sending me right now. I need to prove him wrong and be better the next few games.
Mantha has been a nice bright spot for the Red Wings in this otherwise gloomy season, with 33 points in 50 games and showing at times the immense potential that made him a first-round pick. At just 22-years old, he looks like a building block for the rebuilding Red Wings and a core piece of their top-six for the foreseeable future.
- Jimmy Howard will be back in net for Detroit for the first time since December 20th as he works his way back to full strength. The former all-star netminder was off to the best start of his career before getting injured and needing almost three months to return. Several setbacks and a team struggling to make an impact in the playoff race let the medical staff and Howard be slow and steady with his return, and he’ll now have at least a handful of games to prove he can still compete at this level. The Wings will almost assuredly shop the goaltender around this summer, looking for a taker for him and his nearly $5.3MM cap-hit for the next two seasons.
- Despite coming into a tough situation, Robbie Russo is showing that he should be in the plans for next year’s NHL team. The 24-year old defender hasn’t looked out of place on the Red Wings’ blueline, and has had good possession numbers through his first two games. Obviously more of a sample is needed to determine his future with the club, but after racking up points in the AHL the last two seasons he looks ready for the next challenge.
- The fact that the salary cap is in fact increasing next season will be a big one for the Red Wings, who currently only projected to have about $6MM to spend next year. That wouldn’t go very far after raises to Tomas Tatar and Andreas Athanasiou, not even considering their other restricted free agents. If they can move Howard, and perhaps move out Mike Green for a package of picks or prospects, they could be in fine shape this summer.