Forward Anthony Mantha has put the pieces together to make a profound impact with the Detroit Red Wings, so much so that goaltender Jimmy Howard told reporters that he thinks the 23-year-old can be a “superstar in this league.” Mantha looks to keep the Red Wings churning in the right direction on Friday when they play the third contest of their five-game homestand against the Buffalo Sabres.
With two goals and an assist, Mantha increased his point total to 11 (six goals, five assists) in his last eight contests as Detroit improved to 5-2-1 in that stretch with an 8-2 romp over Calgary on Wednesday. “I just think it’s part of the maturation of him as a player,” coach Jeff Blashill told MLive of the 6-foot-5, 214-pound Mantha. “As you mature as a player, he gets more ice time. As you get more ice time, you get a chance to produce more when you’re talented like he is.” Mantha and his mates were blanked in their last encounter with Buffalo, but the Sabres are hardly singing in the streets after losing three in a row and six of eight overall as well as three straight on the road. Benoit Pouliot scored in Buffalo’s 5-4 overtime setback to Pittsburgh on Tuesday and also netted the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Detroit on Oct. 24.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, MSG-B (Buffalo), SN360, FSN Detroit
ABOUT THE SABRES (5-9-4): Evander Kane is enjoying the best start to a season in his career with team-leading totals in goals (10) and points (18) in 18 contests. The 26-year-old extended his point streak to four games (three goals, two assists) in the first period following a feed from Jack Eichel, who picked up his team-leading 11th assist on that exchange before snapping an eight-game goal drought in the second. The 21-year-old looks to build on that momentum versus Detroit, against which he has four goals and seven points in nine career meetings.
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (9-8-2): Defenseman Luke Witkowski was suspended 10 games by the NHL for his role in Wednesday’s melee versus the Flames. After being escorted off the ice following a fight with Brett Kulak, the 27-year-old Michigan native attempted to rejoin the fracas and was assessed a fighting major, two 10-minute misconducts and a game misconduct. Witkowski brazenly boasted following the match that he deemed his actions to be “old-time hockey” and said “I think it’s good for the game,” although the league readily disagreed with that assessment the following day.
1. Detroit C Dylan Larkin matched Mantha with a three-point performance on Wednesday and has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in his past eight games.
2. Sabres G Robin Lehner, who made 32 saves in last month’s encounter, turned aside 97 of 102 shots to post a 2-0-1 mark versus the Red Wings last season.
3. Howard sustained the hard-luck loss in the teams’ previous meeting, but owns an 8-1-1 mark versus Buffalo and has yet to yield more than two goals in regulation against the club in his career.
PREDICTION: Red Wings 3, Sabres 2