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Notes: Wings hoping Mantha and Zadina could be winning combination

With many players sick, Detroit opts for optional on-ice practice; Daley could play Tuesday

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- It's only been two games but the hope is that putting two highly skilled players together will pay off for the Red Wings.

When Anthony Mantha returned Saturday after missing eight games with a knee injury, coach Jeff Blashill put him on a line with Filip Zadina and center Valtteri Filppula.

"We had left Larks (Dylan Larkin), Bert (Tyler Bertuzzi) and Fabbs (Robby Fabbri) together because they had played a real good game when Mo (Mantha) first came back in Montreal, they had played a good game the night before," Blashill said. "Mo had three weeks without playing, so I thought it was important not to just thrust him back there.

"That's the way the line combinations worked out, we had success with (Darren) Helm and Glenny (Luke Glendening) and Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou) the last two years. It put us in a slot with Zadina, Mo and Fil. What I like about it is you have a big, big body in Mo, who's an elite talent and to me they have a chance to be a good offensive line and I thought they did a good job last night. Nobody was all that good, but I thought they did a good job."

At 9:51 of the third period in Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, Zadina scored on a rebound of Madison Bowey's shot with Mantha getting the second assist.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Zadina's 2nd of the season. 👏 pic.twitter.com/xIWtUufbee

But the two looked dangerous well before that goal.

"Yesterday we had a couple of scoring chances," Mantha said. "Obviously Montreal wasn't my best game, first game back, played a couple minutes. Yesterday I think was a better sample. He got robbed that one play, that 3-on-2 with Fil, himself and me. Then we had another scoring chance, he hit me for a breakaway. Chances are there, it's just a matter of time for them to go in."

After the game Sunday, Zadina said he enjoyed playing with Mantha.

"It's tough to say right now, after two games, but we both are skill players and we know what to do with the puck and when to pass the puck," Zadina said. "For sure it's easier to play with him. I'm so glad to play with him and give him some chances and create some plays together. It's fun."

Of course, the two will get to know each other better the more they play on the same line and Mantha will get more in the swing of things after missing so much time.

"I felt better last night personally," Mantha said. "Just getting back into it, obviously it takes a couple times. But like I said, yesterday felt better and hopefully next game tomorrow night it's even better than those two games."

Zadina had a goal and two assists in his nine-game stint with the Wings last season from Feb. 24-March 14.

Right now, Zadina has two goals and five assists in his last seven games.

"He's making way more plays than he did last year," Mantha said. "Playing on the same line, I think you see different plays that he's trying to make that maybe they're not working right now but they have the potential to work. Yesterday he had three, I think, great chances to score. It's a learning process, everyone knows about it, but I think his step has been major the past year."

PRACTICE CHANGE: With several players battling illness, the Wings opted to change Monday's scheduled practice to an optional on-ice skate or an off-ice workout.

"There's a flu going around," Blashill said. "Between the flu and I don't know what I have, there's flu and an upper-respiratory thing. Our training staff has taken precautions. That's the reason we had a recovery day because we just had a whole bunch of guys with zero, zero energy."

That lack of energy was evident in Sunday's game as the Wings started slowly, not getting their first shot until around nine minutes into the first.

"It's an issue right now," Blashill said. "We had no energy last night. It's just the reality of it. We had some guys take IVs before the game. You could tell they had nothing. As much as you want to not let that bother you, it's the reality of how you feel. It is what it is. Everybody goes through it at some point. We're going through it right now."

That means that it is tough to determine if anyone will not be available for Tuesday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"We got a whole bunch of guys that are sick," Blashill said. "We had some guys stay at home. I don't know that answer. Injury-wise, I don't have an answer on (Jonathan) Ericsson, he took a stick to the nose. Other than that, I think injury-wise, the guys who were available last night are available."

Defenseman Trevor Daley, who missed Sunday's game with an irritation in his back, was at the rink Monday.

"(Sunday was) maintenance, I would say," Blashill said. "His wasn't sickness, so I think he'll be available tomorrow."

NO SNOWBALLING: The Wings have had difficulty preventing losses from snowballing this season.

After Sunday's loss, the hope is that it can be just a one-game thing before they get back to success.

"One thing in a lot of those stretches where we lost a lot of games in a row is we ran out of practices," Blashill said. "What happens in this league is you build your structure and great habits through practice and you go through large stretches where you don't practice at all, it's really hard. You can watch the team lose their habits and structure. We're not a team that can afford that. We have to be great in those areas.

"So we'll do everything we can to win a game tomorrow night and then have two good days of practice and hopefully go in good before the Christmas break."

Mantha admitted that it's a challenge to maintain confidence when things aren't going your way.

"It's hard, man," Mantha said. "Obviously the confidence is affected everywhere in the room right now. Just little plays that usually bounce our way, they're not quite bouncing our way now. It's hard but we need to keep focusing. I think we need to go back to basics and it's hard to say but we need to have fun. Right now I think the guys are not having that much fun. I think having fun is the key."

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