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Notes: Mrazek in goal; Mantha's status unknown

Mrazek confirms he's in against the Rangers; Blashill praises Mantha

by Arthur J. Regner @ArthurJRegner /

DETROIT- If Saturday's practice at Joe Louis is any indication, the Red Wings appear to be sticking with their winning lineup Sunday night when they host the New York Rangers.

The Wings played an inspired game Friday in their come-from-behind victory over the Blackhawks and with every game a must-win situation for Detroit, if something is clicking, why mess with it?

Detroit's line combinations and defensive pairings remained the same during Saturday's practice as they were on Friday, which means that forward Anthony Mantha could be a healthy scratch for the second game in a row.

"First of all, I'll say it again, I think Anthony Mantha is going to be a really good player in this league and could be a great player in this league and I think he's been a really good player for us this season," was how Wings coach Jeff Blashill responded when asked about Mantha's status for Sunday. "This is a one-game thing. I think Anthony, from the time I've known him, has wanted to be better.

"That doesn't mean you always agree with your coach but he absolutely wants to be a really good player, and so if I know anything from him not playing that he would gain, it would be in a fashion of how can I make sure this doesn't happen again and how can I make sure I'm better."

When Blashill was told he said Mantha's benching was a "one-game thing," he quickly corrected himself, telling reporters, "No. It was one last night."

After practice, Mantha was stoic about being a healthy scratch and realizes his career has been one long learning process which will benefit him in the long run.

"I've been going through that process for three years now and like I said, it's a neverending process until you're maybe five or six years into the league and more," Mantha said. "You still could learn. It just keeps going over and over and over again.

"In the long-term I will for sure (benefit from sitting). It's just like that learning process, learning to be a player that shows up every game and I think that's the message they wanted to send me."

While watching Friday's game, Mantha worked out, rode the bike, chilled in the sauna and was impressed with the Wings' effort.

"The guys played amazing," Mantha said. "Obviously it wasn't the start they wanted, but they battled through it and they came back. They played hard. Everyone was on the same page compared to Boston."

Mantha was reluctant to speculate whether he would be back in the Wings' lineup on Sunday.

"That's their decision coming forward for tomorrow's game and the next few games," Mantha said. "We'll see tomorrow coming to the rink if he changed the lineup or not. I'll just be ready if I'm put in the lineup tomorrow."

MRAZEK BACK IN GOAL: Blashill has a tendency to keep his gameday lineup a secret and on Saturday, the Detroit coach was mum on what lineup changes he would make for Sunday's game, if any.

Blashill's hesitance didn't carry over to goalie Petr Mrazek, who told reporters that he would be starting in net Sunday against the Rangers.

Until Friday, when Jimmy Howard played the entire game, Mrazek had appeared in nine straight games either as a starter or in relief, including two back-to-back contests.

"When you play a lot of games in a row, I think nobody likes that, we've played some back-to-backs, so it's always nice to get a couple of days off and go back (in goal) and play strong," Mrazek said. "I feel great, lots of games I have played I feel very good, so I am hoping to continue and finish the season strong."

Mrazek has regained his form and his numbers are beginning to reflect his stellar play.

His goals-against average has dipped below 3.00 (2.99) and his save percentage is above 90 percent (.901).

While he is happy with his numbers trending in a positive direction, Mrazek only cares about one thing.

"Yeah, it's nice to have those numbers back, but I don't look at it," said Mrazek. "I look at it at my performance of how I play and the most important are the wins, so as I have said before, it you win 6-5 or 1-0, it doesn't matter it's all about the wins."

Goaltending will have to be dominant if the Red Wings are to make a miraculous run at a 26th consecutive playoff berth.

Blashill is confident with a resurgent Mrazek and a healthy Howard, the Wings' goaltending is in capable hands, but he know the Wings will need more than superior goaltending to be successful.

"Petr Mrazek has been on top of his game for a while, I think he played excellent over the last little bit," said Blashill. "We threw him to the wolves a little bit in Edmonton and certainly in Boston and I thought he still played excellent.

"Jimmy (Howard) was excellent last night (Friday). For us to win moving forward we're going to need really good goaltending. Part of really good goaltending is playing good defense. They go hand in hand, so sometimes it's a little bit unfair. I thought last night we played better defensively than we did in Boston and Edmonton. It allows the goalie to have success."

TATAR'S NET PRESENCE: With his two goals Friday against the Blackhawks, Tomas Tatar took the team lead in goals with 17.

Much of Tatar's recent success can be attributed to being reunited with Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, but that's not the entire story.

Tatar has always been a bit of a gritty player and isn't apprehensive about going to the net aggressively.

"You got to get on the inside to score lots of times and I'll tell you this, Tats has been on the inside lots," Blashill said. "If you look at Tats' scoring the second half this year it's been very, very good. I think he's on pace to score the same amount of goals as he did last year and he started off slow.

"So, he's obviously been doing a lot of right things here for a while. I would say more than anything else he was a little snakebitten at the beginning of the year. I don't think he wasn't getting chances, I don't think he wasn't necessarily on the inside, I just don't think they were going in."

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