Detroit — Both Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha are in offensive slumps, so it doesn’t have much to do in terms of that.
But Athanasiou’s work ethic and approach have been really good lately while Mantha’s game the latter half against Toronto fell.
So coach Jeff Blashill made a subtle change in the lines at Monday’s practice, promoting Athanasiou to a line with Dylan Larkin and Tomas Tatar, while Mantha was bumped to the fourth line with David Booth and Martin Frk.
“We just want to make sure we’re rewarding guys when they’re doing it right,” Blashill said. “He (Athanasiou) did it right, especially in the second and third periods (Friday against Toronto), and when guys don’t do it right, sometimes they need a little bit of a reminder they have to do it right shift in, and shift out.
“We have to outwork our opponents, out-compete our opponents, and out-detail them. I can’t play somebody that is not doing those things ahead of people that are.
“When people don’t do that right, I have to make sure I’m playing the people that are doing that.”
Neither player has been doing much offensively.
Athanasiou has two points, both assists, in the last 11 games with a minus-11 rating.
Mantha has no points in the last six games, and three points (two goals, one assist) in the last 13 games, with a minus-9 rating.
Blashill believes both players will have plenty of opportunities to reverse their slumps but wants to reward Athanasiou for the competitiveness shown recently.
“For me, when he competes like crazy and works, he has a real good skill set and he can then use that skill set,” Blashill said. “But you can’t be a real good player in this league without competing and working like crazy. You just can’t.”
Athanasiou is optimistic his luck will turn around, noting he’s hit several posts and crossbars lately, and pucks that likely would go in have stayed out.
“There’s nothing you can do about it, sometimes there’s a puck you think is going in and it doesn’t,” Athanasiou said. “I hit two posts and it stays out. On a lot of nights, that goes in. The chances are there, unfortunately, there have been some tough breaks.
“But you just have to keep shooting when it’s not going in and eventually it will.”
Mantha drew the wrath of Blashill just before Thanksgiving for not playing to his potential, and Monday’s demotion was another reminder to play at a certain level.
“The second period (Friday) he turned pucks over that we can’t turn over,” Blashill said. “He’ll get a lot of chances to play and he’ll get a lot of chances to be important. He just has to make sure to manage the puck through the neutral zone.
“We can’t be a team that turns the puck over through the neutral zone.
For his part, Mantha isn’t satisfied with the way he’s played lately.
“I don’t think I’ve played the way I did earlier this season,” Mantha said. “Not only points-wise but in general. The last couple of games I had a couple of turnovers which earlier in the season I didn’t really do.
“I need to bring back my game to a simple game and just make the right plays.”