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Mantha making NHL debut in key spot

Forward hopes to help Red Wings prevail as Flyers pursue in wild-card race

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

RED WINGS (34-24-11) at FLYERS (32-23-12)

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-PH, FS-D

PHILADELPHIA -- Detroit Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha will make his NHL debut Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers in about as pressure-packed a situation as a regular-season game can get.

The Red Wings lead the Flyers by three points in the race for the final wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, but the Flyers have one game in hand.

"The game today, it's the most important of the season," Mantha said. "Just try to help the team win. Big two points to get today."

Mantha, 21, was recalled from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League on Monday. He had 21 goals and 45 points in 56 AHL games.

Coach Jeff Blashill had Mantha, the 20th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, at right wing on a line with center Pavel Datsyuk and left wing Tomas Tatar during the morning skate. He also saw time at the front of the net on the second power-play unit.

"He's a guy who should be a good complement to [Datsyuk] because he's a big body (6-foot-5, 214 pounds), can go to the net front, but also has the skill set to make lots of plays," Blashill said.

Mantha said he relishes the opportunity but understands the challenge that comes with skating with two all-star caliber NHL players.

"It's a great chance for me," Mantha said. "I need to prove I can play with those two guys. I need to get open, need to make smart plays, simple plays. Hope everything goes good tonight."

The Flyers, 6-1-1 in their past eight games, hope things go right for them as well. Part of their recent success has been an early shift into a postseason mentality.

"It feels like a playoff game every night," forward Ryan White said. "But that's made it a lot of fun. It's been fun coming to the rink. Just so much excitement around every game."

Defenseman Andrew MacDonald will return to the lineup after sitting out the 5-4 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday because of a lower-body injury sustained in their 3-1 defeat of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.

"Just needed a few days to let it heal up," he said. "Seems like it's been progressing every day. Much better today."

MacDonald said he could have gone against the Panthers but opted to let more healthy players to get in the lineup.

"Maybe if it wasn't for a back-to-back might have been able to go the day after," he said. "It was just a little bit too much. Decided it was probably best for someone healthy to get in and help the team. We have seven [defensemen], six guys that were healthy at the time. Gave it a go in [pregame] warmup, wasn't able to generate everything. Felt I would have been hampering the team, so I didn't play."

Here are the projected lineups

Justin Abdelkader - Henrik Zetterberg - Dylan Larkin
Tomas Tatar - Pavel Datsyuk - Anthony Mantha
Gustav Nyquist - Riley Sheahan - Andreas Athanasiou
Darren Helm - Luke Glendening - Brad Richards

Brendan Smith - Mike Green
Danny DeKeyser - Kyle Quincey
Jonathan Ericsson - Alexey Marchenko

Petr Mrazek
Jimmy Howard

Injured: Niklas Kronwall (knee), Drew Miller (knee), Johan Franzen (concussion)
Scratched: Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco

Brayden Schenn - Claude Giroux - Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl - Sean Couturier - Sam Gagner
Scott Laughton - Nick Cousins - Matt Read
Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White

Andrew MacDonald - Shayne Gostisbehere
Nick Schultz - Mark Streit
Brandon Manning - Radko Gudas

Steve Mason
Michal Neuvirth

Injured: Jordan Weal (upper body), Michael Del Zotto (wrist), Jakub Voracek (lower body)
Scratched: R.J. Umberger, Evgeny Medvedev

Status report: Mrazek will start his fourth straight game in goal. … Mason will make his fourth straight start in goal. … Blashill said there is no plan to call up an extra defenseman at this time. "We thought why waste a call-up and have a guy sit in the stands," he said. "Until we need the call-up we won't use the call-up. As long as we have six healthy [defensemen] we'll go with the six healthy [defensemen]." … Helm, who sat out the Red Wings' 1-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday because of the flu, practiced Tuesday but Blashill would not commit to him playing. "We'll evaluate that," he said. "I can't speak for sure on our forward lineup. We've got to wait and see how they feel." … Voracek will miss his eighth straight game. He skated Tuesday with assistant coach Ian Laperriere before practice. It was his third straight day on the ice.

Who's hot: Abdelkader has two goals and two assists in his past four games. … Gostisbehere has three goals in his past three games.

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