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Notes: Wings get first try at new-look Canadiens

Price is the mainstay but Weber has added a presence; Mantha will have lots of support

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

MONTREAL - The Red Wings have played some very good teams this season but none quite at the level of the Montreal Canadiens.

The Canadiens are 12-1-1 overall and 9-0 at home.

Otherworldly goaltender Carey Price is 9-0 with a 1.56 goals-against average and .953 save percentage.

The Wings have not won in Montreal since Feb. 26, 2014, going 0-3-2 in their last five at the Bell Centre.

In that 2-1 victory, Todd Bertuzzi scored one of the Wings' goals and Johan Franzen assisted on both. Gustav Nyquist had the game-winner in overtime as Jimmy Howard got the win.

"Price has been playing real well to start the season," Nyquist said. "I think we're excited. It's going to be a big challenge for us. It's a team we want to inch closer to obviously. They've been off to a good start. It's a fun challenge for us."

With 17 points, the Wings are eight points behind the Canadiens in the Atlantic Division.

This is the first time that the Wings are facing the Canadiens since Montreal traded defenseman P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber on June 29.

"Shea Weber is a great player in the league," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "We were in the Western Conference when I was here as an assistant and we played them in the playoffs. He's a physical force. He's a guy who with one shot can change a game. He's a real good defender. He plays on Team Canada in all their Olympics and World Cups. That says you're one of the best players in the world."

Weber is tied for third among defensemen with 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists). Four of his goals have come on the power play.

"He's got a bomb from the point to start," Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "I don't think anyone likes getting in the way of that thing when it's going. He's a great player. He's very, very steady for them on the back end. That huge shot of his on the back end makes their power play that much more lethal."

HOWARD GETS ANOTHER START: Blashill said Howard would start against the Canadiens, his fourth consecutive start.

"Every opportunity he's had, he's been ready," Blashill said. "He's done a great job. He's calm in the net right now. He's managing his crease well, meaning he's not too far out of the net, not too deep in the net. Pucks seem to be sticking to him, and he's playing with tons of confidence. I think you need elite goaltending in this league to win. Obviously Montreal's a good example of that. In order to win in this league you need elite goaltending and he's given us that when he's played."

The Wings felt they relied too much on Howard in Thursday night's 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

"We have to help him out, clearing rebounds, making sure we're sharp for all 60 minutes," Dylan Larkin said. "One bad shift and it can be in the net and it's not fair to him, the way he's been playing. We got to forecheck all 60 minutes and be on our toes. When we get on our heels we're in trouble."

MANTHA'S CROWD: Many members of Anthony Mantha's family had already bought tickets for the Wings' game against the Canadiens tonight at the Bell Centre.

"Everyone was texting me last minute, I'm sure there's more texts today," Mantha said. "My close family had tickets already, just in case and it ended up pretty good."

Mantha said he expects at least 30 family members and friends to be in attendance for his NHL season debut.

Mantha said he feels different from when he was called up last season and played 10 games with the Wings.

"I feel more confidence," Mantha said. "The 10 games last year helped me out this year. My off-season work paid off and my strong start in GR also paid off, so confidence is pretty good and I hope it carries on up here."

Mantha will play on a line with Frans Nielsen and Tomas Tatar and will also be on the power play as a net-front presence.

"I think it's an adjustment when you come in and you haven't played it lots, to understanding how to play just like a bad goalie and to want to be there," Blashill said. "I think over time he's realized that it can be a real asset for him if he can become a real good net-front guy. He's obviously a big, big body. One of the biggest things with Anthony I think is the work he put in this summer to make himself stronger and bigger and thicker. That's going to help him all over the ice. When you have that kind of big body it helps to have that guy in front of the net."

Although listed at 6-foot-5, 214 pounds in the game notes, Mantha said he weighed in at 224 pounds in Grand Rapids.

"Obviously, if you're bigger it's harder for goalies to see around you," Mantha said. "So for me it's just to be good enough on the power play and then in one-on-one battles it helps me for sure."

Blashill said Mantha replacing Andreas Athanasiou in the lineup was the only change from Thursday.

Athanasiou is out with a sprained knee.

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