Red Wings' Andreas Athanasiou finds significant preseason minutes

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Detroit center Andreas Athanasiou has been craving increased minutes.

Detroit — The smile on Andreas Athanasiou’s face pretty much said it all.

Athanasiou played more than 23 minutes Sunday in Pittsburgh in the Wings’ 3-2 exhibition victory over the Penguins.

Athanasiou scored his second goal of the preseason, and continued having one of the best exhibitions of any Red Wing in camp.

“Anyime you play a lot it’s definitely a good feeling,” said Athanasiou, who has been craving increased ice time the last two seasons. “Anytime I can play those minutes, I’m definitely happy to do that.”

Athanasiou was between recent first-round picks Michael Rasmussen and Filip Zadina against the Penguins, and each got on the scoresheet (Rasmussen a goal that Zadina assisted on).

Athanasiou has been skating and competing hard throughout camp, something coach Jeff Blashill has consistently wanted to see.

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“It looks like he’s at another level,” Blashill said. “He looks like he put in a lot of work this summer, and he’s worked and competed (this camp) and when he works and competes he’s a dynamic player.”

Many players like to set goals for themselves, set some sort of barometer they can try to achieve or better.

Athanasiou, who had 16 goals last season, would appear capable of reaching the 20s if given the ice time he’s seen in this preseason.

“It all depends on how much ice time you get and how much you play and the positions you are put in, man-advantage or penalty kill,” Athanasiou said. “I generate a lot of offense and I generate a lot of opportunities so it just comes with the opportunity and as much opportunity as I get, I’ll be able to produce more, so I try not to set numbers.”

Impressive prospect

Joe Veleno, the Wings’ second first-round draft pick this past June, was sent back to juniors Monday — but not without having impressed Blashill.

“He’s closer than we suspected,” Blashill said of Veleno being NHL ready. “We told him to have a focus of making the team next year. Now, he has to go and play great (in junior), and it starts by having a great year. If he does those things (items the Wings recommended Veleno do to improve) and has a great summer, he puts himself in position a year from now.”

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Blashill sees in Veleno a two-way player who might be able to produce significant offense.

“I certainly wouldn’t downplay his offensive potential,” Blashill said. “He has to put up numbers and it’s hard to expect guys to run big numbers later on (in their career) if they don’t do it at the level they’re at. But he looks like a guy with playmaking ability.

"He could be a real good guy who could be good defensively, he has the attributes, and produce a lot of points.”

Ice chips

Defenseman Trevor Daley (lower body) landed awkwardly during Tuesday’s practice and had to be helped off the ice. Daley will not play until this weekend, maybe, said Blashill but should be ready for the regular-season opener Oct. 4.

Defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Jonathan Ericsson both practiced Tuesday and could play this weekend, Blashill said.

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Goalie Jonathan Bernier (upper body) will play Wednesday in Boston.

… Blashill has been in contact with Toronto coach Mike Babcock about both teams using NHL-regular season ready lineups for one or both of the games this weekend.

“It’s just a good way to get real game-ready, it’s the next step,” Blashill said. “We did it last year and the year before and that’s what we’ll try to do (this weekend).”

Red Wings at Bruins

Faceoff: 7 p.m. Wednesday, TD Garden, Boston

Outlook: The Bruins are likely to have a much more deeper, NHL-quality lineup than the one that played Saturday in Detroit, a game the Wings won in overtime 4-3.

Twitter: @tkulfan