CALUMET, MICHIGAN - The fans at the Calumet Colosseum were mostly cheering for their home state Detroit Red Wings against the Stanley Cup-champion St. Louis Blues.
They cheered them on the way from the airport, along the red carpet, during the morning skate and then even more enthusiastically during the game.
The Wings did not disappoint, beating the Blues, 4-1, in front of the sold-out crowd.
Anthony Mantha (two, one on power play) and Michael Rasmussen (two) scored for the Wings.
Ryan O'Reilly scored for the Blues.
Detroit goaltender Calvin Pickard made an impressive 37 saves.
St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington had 22 saves.
Up next for the Wings is a home-and-home exhibition set with the Toronto Maple Leafs, starting Friday night at Little Caesars Arena.
The Blues host the Washington Capitals Friday night.
1. Anthony Mantha: If there's one player who is ready for the regular season to start, it's Mantha. Mantha, the only member of his line to be healthy leaving training camp in Traverse City, has been on fire. With Blues defenseman Vince Dunn in the penalty box for hooking, Mantha unleashed a laser of a shot from the right circle that Binnington had no chance to stop. It was Mantha's third goal of the preseason in three games. Defenseman Dennis Cholowski had the lone assist. But Mantha was apparently not done for the night. Right after the Blues had tied the game in the first minute of the second period, Mantha escaped on a breakaway and again beat Binnington, this time unassisted at 1:06. Mantha had a chance for the hat trick midway through the third but for perhaps the first time in the preseason, his shot missed the mark. Mantha had a game-high eight shots.
Quotable: "The confidence is there since last season. Obviously, the plays are just coming through right now. Keep going this way. Things are coming along. Bert and Dylan are playing good. Hopefully our chemistry can keep growing and we can do great things this year." - Mantha
Quotable II: "He looks unreal. He looks - I mean you guys can see - he looks big and strong as usual. He's obviously shooting the puck really well. It's pretty scary." - Rasmussen
Quotable III: "Play great on Saturday. It's an every-day league and you got to … consistency is probably the key to guys being great. I think he had a great end to the year. I thought he had a great World Championship and then I think he's had a real good preseason. But it's a relentless league. You got to come every night." - Wings coach Jeff Blashill
2. Michael Rasmussen: Rasmussen has a tough task ahead of him this preseason as the Wings want him playing center and there are more established centers ahead of him. Dylan Larkin has the top spot with Valtteri Filppula and Frans Nielsen slotted behind and Luke Glendening, Jacob de la Rose and Christoffer Ehn all contending for that fourth spot. Of course, Glendening, de la Rose and Ehn all are playing wing as well but Blashill has said Rasmussen has to win a center job. Rasmussen's skill set has always included his net-front work and that came into play against the Blues. At 13:18 of the second, Rasmussen drove to the net and got the rebound of Tyler Bertuzzi's shot. Dylan Larkin got the other assist. Shortly after that goal, Rasmussen was at the net to screen Binnington and was able to tip Cholowski's shot from the left point for his second of the game and fourth of the preaseason.
Quotable: " I always kind of go there but I think today I just lucked out. A couple of good shots and one just sitting there for me. It was a good game. It was fun out there. I get confidence from doing the little things - winning my draws, finishing checks, little stuff like that - but it's always good to score. It's fun to score. I like scoring goals and helping the team." - Rasmussen
Quotable II: "I think his game had grown as it's went along. Obviously, we put him at center. We want to keep him at center. I think long-term he can be a real good defensive center and then add his offense with his net-front play. He's a big guy. I heard somebody refer to the center as kind of the third defenseman and ultimately that's what they are. When you got a guy who's 6-7 with that kind of reach, it's a real advantage to have him at that position. We want to keep him there. We think long-term it's the best thing for him and then he's going to add offense through being net-front like he does." - Blashill
3. Dennis Cholowski/Taro Hirose: Last preseason, Cholowski was coming off a solid junior career and was not expected to make the Wings. But Cholowski had other plans, remaining in metro Detroit all summer and using a powerful NHL Prospect Tournament performance to springboard himself into a roster spot. This year, without benefit of a prospect tournament but with another summer in metro Detroit, Cholowski arrived in camp rested and ready. In the first period, Cholowski dished the puck to Mantha for a power-play goal. In the second, Cholowski took the shot himself from the left point and Rasmussen tipped it at 15:33. Taro Hirose picked up the second assist. Hirose, the only player to play Wednesday night in Pittsburgh and in the Calumet game, now has one goal and four assists in six games and looks much like the player who picked up seven points in 10 games with the Wings after signing as a free agent out of Michigan State last spring.
Quotable: "I thought Dennis played well today. He moved the puck well, he battled pretty hard. The key is making sure he recognizes danger and he manages his game and when gets in one-on-one battles he wins them. If he does that, he's a great puck-mover, he's really good on the power play. He's got those offensive tools. He's had a pretty strong camp. He'll get another chance to play again and hopefully he plays great." - Blashill
Quotable II: "I think (Hirose) makes the right plays at the right time. For his size, he's winning his battles, so that's huge. He's playing really good." - Mantha
Quotable III: "I think (Hirose's) improved for sure. He's had a big summer. He's put some muscle on. He's always good at thinking the game, making plays. I think he's obviously gotten a lot better. His speed's gotten better, his puck control's obviously really good. I think he's definitely grown as a player." - Rasmussen
Quotable IV: "Taro is just a real smart player, knows how to play. Managed his game, played back to back. He's played a ton of games the last 2½ weeks with the Prospects Tournament as well. Just a really really smart player who is exponentially better with real good offensive players." - Blashill