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Notes: Wings call up Mantha as Athanasiou goes on IR

Jimmy Howard looking forward to taking on Carey Price and the red-hot Canadiens

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - When Anthony Mantha got sent down to the AHL, he did exactly what he was supposed to do.

In 10 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Mantha scored eight goals and two assists.

"That's how I had to start the year," Mantha said after practice Friday. "I talked to (Wings coach Jeff Blashill) and Kenny (Holland) when I left here and they wanted me to dominate in the American League. I think that's what I'm showing right now by the start I had and I just need to bring that up here."

Mantha's good friend Andreas Athanasiou was hurt in the first period of Thursday night's game on a hit by Vancouver's Nikita Tryamkin so the Wings called Mantha up.

The Wings placed Athanasiou on short-term injured reserve with a sprained knee, meaning he will miss at least seven days and then be reevaluated.

Mantha's eight goals give him a tie for the AHL lead in that category. Mantha also leads the Griffins with 10 points, four power-play goals and 34 shots.

"He's certainly at times done what we've asked him to do, and that's looked like he's in the wrong league and the more you do that on a consistent basis in the American League, the more you're telling people you're an NHL player," Blashill said. "So I think for him, it's probably a similar conversation I had with (Thomas) Vanek at the beginning of the year - be accountable defensively, win your one-on-one battles and track back to our net hard. If you do those things his talent will take over. If he does those, I think he'll be successful."

Mantha, 22, played in 10 games with the Wings last season, scoring two goals and one assist.

Goaltender Jimmy Howard can see the difference in Mantha from last season.

"Just maturity, I think now after being up here last year and he gets called up it's very easy to slide into the lineup for us," Howard said. "He's a big body as well and he's got a great set of hands."

Over the summer, Mantha spent most of his time in the gym, adding 7-8 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-5 frame.

"When you're that size a guy and can be that kind of load it can be a real asset for a team, especially for a team that doesn't have lots of big forwards," Blashill said. "I'm hoping he can go in and play great, play great over a consistent period of time." 

Mantha is expected to play on a top line, most likely with Frans Nielsen and Tomas Tatar. He knows that group is expected to provide offense.

"Obviously I want to bring the scoring touch a little bit," Mantha said. "I don't know if I'll have power play time but if I do I'll need to be strong on the power play. I need to be strong five-on-five. So I just need to be ready and whatever my role is tomorrow, I'll try to grab my chance and keep going with it."

Mantha is a Quebec native who scored both of his NHL goals against his hometown Montreal Canadiens.

As soon as he got the call-up, Mantha called his parents, sisters and grandparents. Then he texted his friends and told them to get tickets to Saturday night's game.

"I think it's going to go around maybe 20, 30 guys, people I know," Mantha said. "It's going to be exciting."

HOWARD'S NEXT TEST: Howard leads all goaltenders with a 1.22 goals-against average and .961 save percentage but there's another goalie who has nine wins and zero losses - Montreal's Carey Price.

Price is also third in goals-against average at 1.56 (Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk is second at 1.51) and second in save percentage at .953.

Asked what makes Price special, Howard said, "Everything - he can play the puck, the way he makes things look so easy and so calm and on top of that he's a great guy as well."

Price is one of the main reasons the Canadiens are 12-1-1 and a perfect 9-0-0 at home.

"He's one of the greatest and you try and measure yourself against that around the league, but at the end of the day you just go out there and perform," Howard said.

The Canadiens have scored 46 goals, third in the Eastern Conference. The New York Rangers have 58 and the Philadelphia Flyers have 49.

MAINTENANCE DAYS: As has been the case since his return from chronic knee issues, Niklas Kronwall did not skate the day after the game.

Captain Henrik Zetterberg and Nielsen also did not practice with the team.

Blashill said all three had maintenance days and are expected to play in Montreal.

JURCO, VANEK UPDATES: Tomas Jurco underwent back surgery in the offseason and was expected to be ready in mid-November.

Jurco has been practicing with the team.

"He had a little bit of a setback last week where he just had a little bit of pain, so we probably pushed his timetable back a week, so he's still a few weeks away," Blashill said.

Thomas Vanek, who has missed eight games with a lower-body injury, skated with the team Friday.

"He's skating good," Blashill said. "The one thing I said to Thomas is let's make sure he's in tip top shape when he comes back. I said that coming back from the World Cup, I thought he was and it really helped us at the start of the year, so we need him to hit the ground running when he comes back."

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