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Notes: Kronwall set to return to lineup, but Cholowski now out

Mantha talks about maintaining confidence at NHL level

by Dana Wakiji and Art Regner @Dwakiji and @ArthurJRegner /

DETROIT -- Perhaps it is just the first three games of the season that Red Wings veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall doesn't enjoy.

Last season Kronwall missed the first three games due to his chronic knee issues but returned to play the final 79 games.

Kronwall practiced with the team at the BELFOR Training Center Wednesday and said his lower-body injury is healed enough for him to play in the team's fourth game of this season.

"I think everything kind of depends on I guess what the coach thinks and also of course how it feels," Kronwall said. "Been feeling good now for quite a few days in a row. See how it responds but it feels good right now."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "I think they've done a tremendous job so far. It's encouraging to see what's not just in the short term, but also in the long term in the organization."Kronwall on the young guys in the lineup. | #LGRW

Of course, it won't be an easy game for Kronwall to make his season debut as the Toronto Maple Leafs are 3-1 and have scored 20 goals in four games.

"I think it'll be a challenge for all of us," Kronwall said. "Obviously Toronto, they've been firing on all cylinders here early on and they got so many threats up front, good goaltender, good power play. They have a lot of different ways they can score. It'll be a challenge. We've got to tighten things up but I think overall, these first few games, we've done a decent job."

The team was already missing veteran defensemen Mike Green (virus) and Jonathan Ericsson (upper body) and then lost Trevor Daley in the first period of Sunday's game in Los Angeles with an upper-body injury.

Because that was not enough injuries on the blue line, now the Wings are going to be without rookie Dennis Cholowski.

"It looks like Dennis will miss tomorrow's game with an upper-body injury, probably out Saturday as well but I don't know that for certain," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said.

Blashill indicated that Cholowski played with the injury for a period of time during Monday's game.

"It really is crazy," Kronwall said of the rash of injuries. "But in saying that, we've been able to see the younger guys even more, I think they've done a tremendous job so far. So it's encouraging to see what's, not just in the short term but also in the long term, what we have in the organization, more than just seeing it in preseason. It's been extremely encouraging to see."

Blashill said recently that it would take a couple of weeks for Green to get back into full shape and then another couple of weeks for him to practice fully with the team before he's ready to play.

Green, Ericsson and Daley did not practice Wednesday and Blashill said none would be available for Thursday.

He also indicated Daley would likely miss Saturday's game in Boston as well.

MANTHA'S CONFIDENCE AN ONGOING PROCESS: Anthony Mantha has never lacked confidence. It has been well documented when the Red Wings selected Mantha as their first-round pick, 20th overall, in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, he believed he would make the Red Wings at 18.

His confidence was soaring because he was such a dominant player in junior hockey. The game came so easy to him that Mantha thought the pro level would be a breeze.

That's why when teammate Thomas Vanek told reporters last week Mantha could blossom into the NHL's premier power forward but he needed to have more confidence in his abilities, it caught some by surprise, except Mantha.

"It was easy to have that extra edge coming out of juniors, everything went my way. I never had an injury or a setback during junior, so yeah, I think it is confidence," Mantha said about Vanek's observation. "Then I came here and got injured and spent two years in the American League. It's a hard league down there, so it's hard to gain your confidence, gain that easy play that always works, that you're going to score over and over again.

"I never (really) found it in the American League; then as you get to the NHL, there's a couple of things that goes your way and you need to keep doing the same way. So, that's just the things I'm focusing on to get things going. It's not necessarily believing in myself, because I do believe in myself, but to find that extra edge to my game. Like that little detail that is always going to be perfect and you're always going to be the best player you can."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "We're not afraid to talk to each other off the ice. This morning we had a meeting just looking over a couple clips - I think that's how teammates get better, how line-mates get better," - Mantha on playing with Larkin. | #LGRW

While he was in Grand Rapids Mantha began to see a sports psychologist to work through his belief and confidence issues.

He still continues to see him today, but it really comes down to Mantha.

A trained professional can offer insightful advice, but it's what you do with the advice which is the key.

"It's to believe in yourself. You want results coming quick. If they don't, you kind of ask yourself a question or two, 'Why is this not going through, why is that not going through?' As easy as trying a pass, trying a pass in the 'D's triangle between his skates and stick, when your confidence is high every single pass goes by, you know what I mean? And when you're hesitant it's a fraction of a second late and then it's intercept(ed), it's a simple as that."

Mantha is determined to become the very best player he can be, and it starts with him focusing on getting at least five shots a game.

If he can generate five shots a game, he will score or at the very least create quality scoring chances.

"You just need to get your head going to have that mindset. Obviously if the play is to pass it, that happens in some games that (Dylan) Larkin, Abby (Justin Abdelkader) or (Gustav) Nyquist is just open you pass up on a shot because they have a better angle, but if not, you try and shoot everything,"

Mantha said about having a shooter's mentality.

"I think in LA, I had five or six shots and two or three missed shots and the day after (in Anaheim) I think I had only three and two missed shots. I just need to keep my mind to it and keep firing."

Like most of the Red Wings, Mantha feels Detroit has played pretty good hockey, but they need to pick it up to get their first win of the season.

"I think we've play good, obviously, it's a little bit more, maybe less turnovers," Mantha said. "Against Toronto we know if we turn it over it's in the back of our net, so that's going to be a hard and intense game. "We want to get that win as fast as we can. Like I said, I don't think we've played bad, we just need to put a little extra effort to get that win."

LINE CHANGES: During Wednesday's practice, there was a slight shift in the lines.

Nyquist skated with Andreas Athanasiou and Vanek while Abdelkader was on a line with Larkin and Mantha.

"Just a look to see if we can't make one little adjustment to score a little bit more," Blashill said. "I don't know that I'll stay with it necessarily but we wanted to look at it today. Again, I think we're close to scoring. I've kept the pairs of Vanek and Double-A together, I've kept the pair of Larkin and Mantha together, but just thought if we flipped that a little bit -- Nyquie's got a real high hockey IQ, too, and had real good success with Vanek at the beginning two years ago. Now I know it was (Darren) Helm in between them but we'll see if maybe we can replicate some of that."

The line of Tyler Bertuzzi-Frans Nielsen-Michael Rasmussen remains intact, as does the line of Helm-Christoffer Ehn-Luke Glendening.

"I played with Vanek a little bit when he was here a couple years ago," Nyquist said. "I started with him and Helmer, It think, and then we had Nielsen in the middle for a while there. Now we're trying Double-A. I thought the lines were working fine but obviously we're not scoring enough goals, probably just trying to try something new here, try some different guys in different spots and hopefully get a boost offensively from this."

GAME TIME CHANGE: Because the Boston Red Sox are hosting the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series and Game 1 is Saturday night, the Boston Bruins have changed the time of their game with the Wings from 7 p.m. to 3 p.m.

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