DETROIT - The Red Wings will welcome another rookie into the lineup Saturday.
Wings coach Jeff Blashill said it was likely that Andreas Athanasiou would not be able to play due to lingering effects from the cross-check he received in Carolina March 27, so Matt Lorito is expected to make his NHL debut.
"He's been a guy who in the American League is a proven offensive player," Blashill said. "He's a little undersized, so until those guys get to the NHL you never know for sure. I know in the preseason he was really, really good offensively. He did a real good job on the power play, especially on the half-wall, on his forehand side, kind of walking down and finding seams. I think ultimately for him to be an effective player at this level he'll have to be good on the power play."
With the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins, Lorito had 21 goals and 33 assists in 59 games.
Lorito said Griffins coach Todd Nelson told him after their game in Winnipeg that he was going to Detroit.
Now Lorito's first NHL game will not only be the second to last at Joe Louis Arena but also against an Original Six team in the Montreal Canadiens.
"It's amazing," Lorito said. "It's going to be a fun game tomorrow. Obviously Montreal is a really good team, they're in the playoffs. They're going to want to make sure they finish strong and obviously we want to do a good job closing out this building. So it's going to be fun."
Lorito, 26, was originally in the New Jersey Devils organization with their AHL team, the Albany Devils, and had 18 goals and 36 points in 71 regular-season games last season. In the postseason, he had three goals and four assists in 11 playoff games.
The Wings signed Lorito as an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
At 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, Lorito has always had questions about his size. "I think I just got to make sure I'm playing hard in all of my one-on-one battles," Lorito said. "I think it starts there. Obviously I'm not the biggest and strongest guy but I think there's other ways you can win puck battles, just being good with your stick and stuff like that. I just got to make sure I'm playing responsible defensively and tracking back and just those one-on-one battles, make sure I'm bearing down."
Lorito said his parents, sister and girlfriend will all be at the Joe Saturday and some of his friends from his hometown of Oakville, Ontario, were planning to make the trip.
NO SURGERY FOR MANTHA: Anthony Mantha may be out for the rest of this season but it doesn't look like he will need surgery.
Mantha broke the ring finger on his right hand in a fight with Tampa Bay defenseman Luke Witkowski on March 30 in Tampa.
"I saw the hand specialist yesterday and it's healing pretty good already," Mantha said. "We'll just keep going that way. The bone structure is pretty aligned so it's just a few weeks to heal and then we'll be good."
The fight stemmed from a battle on March 24 at Joe Louis Arena against Tampa Bay's Greg McKegg.
"That fight, the first fight against McKegg, obviously I defended (Dylan) Larkin there," Mantha said. "I thought it was kind of different. I do what I did when people get hit from behind. I will defend that always. I did agree to McKegg that it was too vicious punch at the end. It's on myself, the fighting. I don't know what happened in my head at that moment.
"I did apologize to him in the penalty box and on the ice afterwards. The next game obviously, their coach didn't like it, so I kind of knew someone was going to come. Then that second fight happened."
Mantha fought five times this season, not what he would ideally prefer to do.
"Obviously I don't like fighting," Mantha said. "I don't know why I fought that much this year. It's just things that happen, and it happens quick. Not really change my style of play but I just know I can stand up for myself and that's what I do."
Mantha isn't sure how he broke his finger but he's obviously not thrilled to cut his season short at 60 games.
"Obviously it plays on your head a little bit," Mantha said. "If I had to be injured, I would rather be injured right at the end of the year right now then in the middle of the year and then miss 4-6 weeks. It's unfortunate for sure but I still keep good learning memories about this year. I just need to come back next year."
Mantha finished with 17 goals and 19 assists, tied with Mike Green for fifth on the team in scoring.
"I think it was an up and down season," Mantha said. "When I got called up, I was on a high if I could say, just playing the hockey I had to play this year, and I think I played pretty good. Then I had a slowdown around those two games they had to scratch me but that's part of hockey. I just think to focus next year on coming back and not having slumps. One game, two games, OK but you can't get to five or six games in a row. That 's what I am looking to do."