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Notes: Mantha returns to practice

Blashill likes energy level of Wings; Daley presented with a Sea-Doo jet ski

by Arthur J. Regner @ArthurJRegner / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- After having Sunday off as they traveled back from Dallas, the Red Wings returned to the ice on Monday, participating in a high energy morning skate before taking on the Florida Panthers in their traditional New Year's Eve game at Little Caesars Arena at 7:30 p.m.

This is a crucial stretch for the Wings as they begin a five-game homestand against the Panthers and will play every other day versus some high-end teams.

Besides Florida, Detroit will entertain Calgary on Wednesday, Nashville on Friday, Washington on Sunday and close out their tough slate of home games with Montreal on Jan. 8.

Detroit has lost four games in row and is 2-6-2 in their last 10 games and it has given up five goals in each of its last three games.

But being at home for over a week should benefit the road-weary Red Wings who have played seven of their last 10 games away from Little Caesars Arena.

"I think first of all, it's good to be home. There was an energy level today that was excellent," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after the morning skate at the Belfor Training Center. "(To) be home and have energy, (but) our focus is on one thing and that's tonight's hockey game. That's it. There's not one thing you can do about anything, I'm not worried or frustrated about anything six games ago, 10 games ago, 100 games ago, I'm worried about one game tonight."

Blashill should be concerned about the Panthers, who have won five of their last seven games, including a 2-1 victory over the Wings in Detroit on Dec. 23.

"They're a good hockey team. We know that," Blashill said. "I think (Aleksander) Barkov's one of the best players in the world, that's not to take away from other guys on that team, they got a number of good players. I think (Vincent) Trocheck was a tough injury for certain. I thought (Roberto) Luongo played really well (33 saves, .971 save percentage) the game they were in here, I thought it was a tight game. Neither team had a whole bunch.

"Their power play was the difference as it has been through lots of this year for them, so our penalty kill's going to have to be excellent. We're going to have to play our best hockey to give ourselves an opportunity to win. That's just the league every night and we know that's going to have to be the case tonight."

For whatever reason, the Panthers have played well in Detroit. The Red Wings are 1-2-2 in their last five home games against Florida and in their last 11 home games, Detroit is 2-4-5 versus the Panthers.

"I'm not sure on that, why the reason," Panthers coach and Windsor native Bob Boughner responded when asked about the Panthers' record in Detroit. "We know we got to be ready. There are no easy games, it doesn't matter what the team's record is or how they've been playing.

"It's just a game like any other for us. We need the points, so it doesn't matter who we're playing, there's no real reason for it, but we have seemed to get points out of this team."

With it being New Year's Eve, the Wings are hoping to capitalize on the atmosphere generated by the festive crowd and reverse the Panthers winning ways in the Motor City.

"Just coming home, I think fans have been great all year. This is a fun game for us, we always know we're going to play New Year's Eve at home," Gus Nyquist said. "We've done it for a long, long time. I don't know how many years in a row now but it's kind of a special game here for us. We need a win badly."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "We've lost a couple here in a row and we need those 2 points, so we'll come out with a lot of energy tonight."Getting set for #FLAvsDET: pic.twitter.com/75U69ZgfEE

MANTHA JOINS RED WINGS PRACTICE: Red Wings sniper Anthony Mantha has already missed 13 games since he injured his right hand during a third-period fight against Colorado's Patrik Nemeth in the Wings 2-0 loss on Dec. 2, at Little Caesars Arena.

At the time of the tussle, the towering Mantha was beginning to find his offensive groove, but when he saw Dylan Larkin take a shot to the head, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Mantha needed to send a message to the Avalanche.

"If you go back to that play, I thought Larkin got hit to the head. I didn't even think twice, I just knew I wanted to defend him a little bit. It happens," Mantha told reporters after skating with the Red Wings on Monday for the first time since his injury. "I'm not going to stop fighting if I need to fight. We'll see how it goes next time. Hopefully I could get out of it without an injury.

"Obviously it sucks being out that long but it's part of playing hockey and I think fighting belongs in hockey though."

Originally thought to be a broken hand, Mantha said it was damage to a ligament near the knuckle of his middle finger which required surgery. He was adamant that his hand was not broken, but he knew something was not right almost immediately after the fight.

"When I got to the penalty box, (Tyler) Bertuzzi was in there and it's just a reflex, you look at your knuckles, look at your hands," Mantha recalled. "I saw it's swollen and then when I closed my fist, I saw a little movement that wasn't normal, and I put my hand down so no one sees and I asked Bert if he thought it was normal. His answer was, 'I don't know, I'm not a (bleeping) doctor.' So, I just started laughing and from there I knew something was wrong."

Since he injured his hand, Mantha was able to continue skating and work on conditioning his lower body.

"I've skated a lot. I got to go back home for a couple more days. I took a couple more power skating lessons back home. I couldn't shoot yet so it was only skating," Mantha said. "Then I got back on the 26th, the team was on the road, so I skated for three or four days with (Danny) DeKeyser. Then today was first practice with the team. So hopefully within the next seven days or so (he will be ready to play). 

"A month of lower body is a long time, you know? Obviously, I did a little bit of upper but mostly lower body. It's pretty much a summer training. It's like if we're talking right now and body-wise it's like September. So, it's good news at the same time, positive."

As much as Blashill wants to see Mantha back soon, he sees benefits to having Mantha work on his strength and conditioning.

"That's one thing we talked about is using it as an advantage, not a disadvantage in the sense that sometimes it's hard during the year, you get wore down, you're playing, it's hard to keep yourself to the same physicality that you do when you come into camp so let's make sure, let's really bust it and I believe he did," Blashill said. "Hopefully he comes back ready to roll right away. He was playing great hockey when he left, so the best way to hit the ground running is to make sure you take care of yourself when you're off. The good thing about the upper body is you can work the lower body.

"Sometimes those lower-body injuries are tough because you can't skate, but he was able to skate so hopefully when he is able to insert himself back in the lineup, he can hit the ground running."

When Blashill was told that Mantha said he'd be back in seven days, which means his return will be against Montreal on Jan. 8, Blashill was a bit amused.

"What's encouraging is he was able to get his medical degree during that time off, that's what's encouraging. Those schools in Montreal must be either easier or better, one of the two" Blashill joked. "He's eager to get back, that's probably the most encouraging. I think he feels like he's put work in that he could step in and play tomorrow, although physically that's not going to happen, I think that's great."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Anthony Mantha was back skating with the team this morning. #RedWings pic.twitter.com/fGzobwPo3S

DALEY RECIEVES A GIFT: Near the end of Monday's morning skate, Blashill called the Wings together so they could present defenseman Trevor Daley with a Sea-Doo jet ski commemorating his 1,000th NHL game.

Daley was stunned by his teammates gesture. "I had no clue. I was just trying to get ready for tonight," Daley said. "It was pretty cool. I'm glad I got to share it with everybody and hopefully it gives us a little bit for tonight.

"It's a group of guys that I love being around, so for them to do that for me, I really appreciate it."

Though he was initially surprised, Daley believes hockey players are completely dedicated to the game and understand the history of their sport which has bonded teams for generations.

"It's not just the Red Wings. We're all brought into this the same way, brought up the same way," Daley said. "It's a special sport. We have great, great people and this room is no exception. This room is amazing.

"Way before us, being here, the guys that made the game what it is today. Good people. The Kronwalls, the Ericssons, the Greens. It's up to the older guys to keep this tradition going and it's such a great tradition that we have. We just want to keep it going."

Before he became a Red Wing, Daley had the reputation of being a class act and it's apparent the Red Wings really value Daley not only as a player, but as a man.

"I think the ceremony for Trevor is awesome. It's one thing to play 1,000 games, it's another thing to have impact on teammates the way he has had his whole career," Blashill said. "I saw that when we were in Pitt, you see it when were in Dallas, you see it with our guys here. He's just a guy who's been loved everywhere he's gone so it's great to be able to have that (the jet ski) for him."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: A little gift from the boys for Daley���s 1000th game. 🌊 #lgrw pic.twitter.com/XRhGjDQ5hE

NEW YEAR'S EVE GAME: Monday's game will be the 70th time the Red Wings have played on New Year's Eve in their illustrious history. All but four games have been played in Detroit.

The Wings played on New Year's Eve in Ottawa in 1927, against the Rangers in New York in 1942, and again in 1946.

Detroit's last road New Year's Eve game was in Toronto in 1949.

The Red Wings were 2-2 in those four road games. On New Year's Eve, the Wings overall record is 36-24-8-1. In Motown the Red Wings are 34-22-8-1.

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