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Notes: Nyquist skates Monday, will be game-time decision

Mantha starting to come into his own as impact forward for Wings

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

VANCOUVER - The Red Wings may have gotten lucky.

Forward Gustav Nyquist, who left Sunday's game in Edmonton after going knee-to-knee with Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba, was able to get on the ice Monday during the team's optional morning skate in Vancouver.

"That's a positive for sure," Nyquist said. "It felt OK so we'll see how it feels later in the day."

Both Nyquist and Wings coach Jeff Blashill said whether Nyquist would be able to play in the second of back-to-back games was a game-time decision.

Nyquist scored the second goal of the Wings' 4-0 victory over the Oilers.

MANTHA ON A MISSION: Anthony Mantha doesn't just want to play for the Wings, he wants to be an important player for the team.

So far, he has been just that as he leads the team in goals with seven and is tied with Dylan Larkin and Mike Green for the team lead in points with 13.

"As we're getting more mature even as young guys, we need to be an impact on this team and we want to be the one of the best players on this team and throughout the league, same thing," Mantha said. "We need to keep pushing offensively while being smart at the same time."

It has taken a while for things to come together for the 6-foot-5, 225-pound forward.

Playing for Val d'Or in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Mantha was a point machine, scoring 50 and 57 goals and 89 and 120 points in back-to-back seasons.

The lesson for Mantha came when he reached the American Hockey League.

"It's impossible to change your habits when you're having the success that he had," Blashill said. "How would you ever recognize that a a human being? So even if people tell you, it's impossible to change it. I think when he came into the American League and realized that there's a lot of other good players that were real similar to him in talent level, that he needed to make some changes, and to his credit, he wants to be a real good player, he's a guy who cares a ton.

"He's made changes in his game and I think as you make those changes you go in and out of confidence, sometimes it's over the course of the last four years or whatever, he's gone up and down with his confidence and now he's really starting to head in the right direction."

Blashill said Mantha has gone from a player who skates about 25 percent of the time to one who skates 80 to 90 percent of the time.

"In juniors you could escape a game or two without skating and still put points on but once I got to the American League, I learned pretty quickly that it doesn't happen that way," Mantha said.

With his size, Mantha has also learned that he can make life difficult for goaltenders when he goes to the net.

"I think it's a critical part of the maturation of his game, that he realizes how important it is to be a net type guy," Blashill said. "That's why we got him at the net front on the power play. He can certainly play other spots but as he learns that, that's going to make him so much better. The goal we scored in Ottawa with the extra attacker, it was an extra attacker but really it was just a great screen by him and a tip with a good shot. I think he's a guy that's had a point of emphasis of our hockey team to make sure we're doing a way better job of getting to the net and he's a guy that can certainly lead us in that direction."

Because Mantha leads the team in goals, his passing can get overlooked.

On the Wings' third goal against Edmonton, Mantha passed to Martin Frk for an easy score.

"For me, making plays, it's as good as scoring goals," Mantha said. "If you look at one of the best guys in the league, it's (Connor) McDavid. He's not necessarily going to score 40 or 50 but he's going to probably get 70 assists. So he's a great playmaker. It's just to help out the team."

Ultimately, Mantha knows that his offense will come as long as he takes care of his other responsibilities on the ice.

"It comes down to being responsible defensively," Mantha said. "I think that's the main key. If you play well defensively, you'll get the puck more often and you can create more offense."

HOWARD BACK AND READY: Goaltender Jimmy Howard left the team briefly to be with his wife, Rachel, after the passing of her uncle.

"It was unfortunate under the circumstances but it was also nice to get back and see family members," Howard said. "I wish my wife's uncle, God bless his soul."

Howard only missed one practice in Edmonton and returned to the team that night. He backed up Petr Mrazek Sunday.

"Just a couple airplanes. Got into Edmonton where it was nice and cold," Howard said. "You just first right back in. I didn't even feel like I was gone so it was nice to get back and see the guys."

Howard said he was ready to start against the Canucks Monday.

NO REPEAT PERFORMANCE: The Wings have played fairly consistently this season except for one glaring game - the 4-1 loss to the Canucks Oct. 22 at Little Caesars Arena.

"We know how we felt about the way we played," Blashill said. "Now that's not a knock on them. They're playing very well against a lot of teams, they have a very good record. It's not by fluke. I've watched a number of their games now. (Canucks coach) Travis Green has got them playing at a real high level, he's got them playing to the identity that he wants and they're competing real hard. Like every night in this league, you better come out and compete like crazy, you better have great detail just to give yourself a chance to win. It certainly doesn't guarantee a win."

Rookie Brock Boeser had a hat trick in the Canucks' 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. He leads Vancouver with 13 points.

Boeser's center, Bo Horvat, has five goals among 11 points and fellow wing Sven Baertschi has four goals among 11 points.

"Horvat line's playing as good as any line in the league so we better be ready to do a good job against them," Blashill said. "That's not to take away from their other lines, we know the talent level on the Sedin line, the (Thomas) Vanek line, so there's tons of talent throughout but we better make sure we do a good job against that Horvat line."

Baertschi scored twice against the Wings in Detroit.

"They'll be coming out strong," Mantha said. "When they came into our building, they took the win and we need to bounce back tonight."

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