Detroit – It will not be Thursday’s game, or the one after that, or even the one after that one.
But at least two injured Red Wings – Andreas Athanasiou and Alexey Marchenko – are on the way to a return.
Athanasiou (sprained knee) has been skating with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar, while Marchenko (sprained AC joint) lightly took part in Wednesday’s practice.
Both are at least another week, it would appear, especially with the tight schedule, from returning.
But the reinforcements are coming.
“Both guys have been putting in time with Mike Kadar, and that’s the process for us,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “It goes from our training staff to Mike with some handover process, and from Mike to the coaching staff and full practices.
“The fact Marchey took a step forward and participated in some of the practice is a good sign. Obviously Double-A is starting to feel better on the ice and do more cuts and things like that.
“It’s good, it’s encouraging.”
Athanasiou was hurt November 10 against Vancouver when he was hit straight on by Canucks defenseman Nikita Tryamkin, spraining his knee.
Athanasiou has skated with Kadar for five consecutive days and is seeing progress, although he isn’t pinpointing a return.
“Just taking it day to day and trying to improve every day with the mobility,” Athanasiou said. “It feels strong and it looks like it’s getting back up to par.
“We’ve skated a lot the last five days so we’re making progress.”
Athanasiou had a similar injury last year and felt he came back too soon.
“I came back a little too early and re-nagged it and sat out a little longer,” Athanasiou said. “This one we’re taking all the right steps and we’re doing all the right things and when I do come back it’ll be 100 percent ready to go.
“I know my strength is my skating and how much force to put on and which edge to go on and I’m taking it slowly and making sure all my movements are good before I really start to push it.”
Marchenko injured his shoulder November 20 against Calgary but has begun to see progress recently.
The test will be when Marchenko is cleared for contact.
“I need to get back the strength in the shoulder,” Marchenko said. “It’s getting better but it’s not there yet. But it’s getting better. We’ll see how it feels after (he gets) to hit on contact.”
Who has been the most consistent Red Wings forward thus far this season?
In Blashill’s estimation, it’s Henrik Zetterberg.
“For me, he’s had an excellent start to the year,” Blashill said. “He’s just quietly been consistently really, really good. He gave us a calming, good defensive presence (when moved back to center), and he has consistently played against really, really good players of the other teams and has at least been even in most of those games, if not won the majority of shifts.
“He’s been real good for us.”
Zetterberg’s ability to play over pain – he came into the season with an injured knee – is a lesson to younger players.
“You won’t come across a bigger warrior, similar to Kronwall in terms of his ability to handle pain and work through that,” Blashill said. “He’s a great example to our guys of what it takes to be successful and what a true pro is.”
Tomas Tatar and Niklas Kronwall both didn’t practice, but Blashill expects both to play Thursday against Florida.
…Blashill raved about the competitive streak of goaltender Petr Mrazek in Tuesday’s victory over Dallas.
“He had a high compete level around the net, where he just seemed to know the puck wasn’t going in unless there was a backdoor play or some rebound play,” Blashill said. “I’ve been around him long enough to know those nights where it feels no way the puck is going in.”
…Anthony Mantha has three goals in eight games since his promotion from Grand Rapids. Mantha’s current hot streak resembles when Gustav Nyquist was recalled in 2013 and never missed a beat from scoring goals in Grand Rapids.
“There were a lot of nights he (Mantha) looked like he belonged in a different league, meaning he belonged in the NHL,” Blashill said. “Mantha, like Jimmy Howard earlier, put himself in position where the window of opportunity opened and he was ready to jump through.”
Panthers at Red Wings
Faceoff: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit, 97.1 The Ticket.
Outlook: The teams have similar 11-10-2 records but Florida has been in turmoil since firing former Red Wing Gerard Gallant Sunday…New coach Tom Rowe has a talented lineup led by G Roberto Luongo (.929 SVS, 2.11 GAA) and C Aleksander Barkov (12 assists) and D Aaron Ekblad (6 goals).