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Time on bench gets Athanasiou’s attention

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Toronto — Call it a learning experience, something to jar Andreas Athanasiou into understanding what it takes at the NHL level.

Athanasiou only played 5:13 Thursday in the 3-2 overtime victory over Ottawa, and not at all after the second period.

Neither coach Jeff Blashill or Athanasiou were specific as to what the cause or circumstances were, but competitiveness and defense were likely at issue, given Blashill’s comments Friday.

“There are nights where he’s really engaged and he’s an outstanding player, and nights where that engagement isn’t the same or the competitive level or the engagement of the attention to detail (isn’t the same),” Blashill said. “So it’s just, hopefully, a maturation process for him, that he can continue to make sure every night that the competitive level is at the level he needs to be at to be successful in this league.

“It’s a league where everybody is close in talent. If you don’t, and I’m talking in general now, if you don’t compete like crazy, it’s hard to be successful.

“What does compete mean? Win pucks battles and make sure you don’t get beat defensively.”

Red Wings’ Ott excited about outdoor debut

Sitting most of the Ottawa game appears to have gotten Athanasiou’s attention.

“Nobody likes to sit on the bench,” Athanasiou said. “We got the two points so that’s the most important thing. You have to put it behind you and come ready to practice and be ready to go on Sunday.”

Athanasiou admits there isn’t just one area of his game that needs attention.

“Every part of your game you can get better,” Athanasiou said. “I don’t specifically look at one part and say I have to work on this or that to get better. You always look to get better every day and it’s not that one thing.

“I don’t want to say I’m bad defensively — I don’t think I am — I can take care of my own end.”

In the crease

After playing well in Thursday’s victory in Ottawa, goalie Jared Coreau appears to be the likely starter Sunday in the Centennial Classic against Toronto.

Which would put Petr Mrazek on the bench for the third in four games.

Mrazek (9-8-3, 3.11 goals-against average, .896 save percentage) is searching to recapture the level he played at last season, although Mrazek insists he’s feeling just as well.

“Actually I feel great,” Mrazek said. “Way better than I felt last year. More confidence. I just have to show it in the games.

“I don’t think I’m missing something. I just have to stop more pucks.”

Blashill wouldn’t commit to Sunday’s starter, but the way Coreau is progressing, it would be surprising if it wasn’t Coreau.

“I see his confidence growing, and like any player but it’s magnified in the goaltending position, the more comfortable you get the greater chance you get to have confidence,” Blashill said.

Injury update

The Red Wings are getting healthier — but aren’t likely to be completely healthy against the Maple Leafs.

Blashill ruled out forwards Darren Helm (dislocated shoulder) and Justin Abdelkader (knee) and defensemen Mike Green (upper body) and Alexey Marchenko (shoulder).

The only player who could return is forward Riley Sheahan (upper body), who is day-to-day, having missed Thursday’s game.

All but Helm participated in Friday’s outdoor practice at BMO Field.

Ice chips

The Red Wings haven’t been as consistent as they need to be.

“The consistency has to be higher,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “The last four or five games, we’ve been playing better and haven’t gotten the results we obviously wanted in a few of those games.

“But if we keep playing at that level, we’ll have a chance.”

Anthony Mantha has 13 family and friends arriving from Montreal for Sunday’s game.

Mantha said he’s never participated in an outdoor game at any level, which makes this weekend thrilling.

“You need to relax and enjoy it,” Mantha said. “It only happens how many times? For me, I’ll take the experience and try to have fun with it.”