Raleigh, N.C. — The one, single play pretty much typified this recent stretch for Andreas Athanasiou.
Rather than shooting at the net — and it appeared Athanasiou had most of an open net to shoot at — Athanasiou passed the puck toward the end of a game against Ottawa, giving the defensemen time to react, and squandering the scoring chance.
Be it lack of confidence, or looking too hard to make a play, it’s what life has been for Athanasiou over the last 10 goal-less games.
“It’s a tough situation,” Athanasiou said of the play, and the last 10 games. “You want to make a play, you want to make the right play, and sometimes it’s not always the right play. You have to learn from it and be ready to shoot the puck when you have the opportunity.
“And when the pass is there, you have to make the pass. It’s just keeping it simple at this point.”
Athanasiou is one of several Wings who are struggling offensively. But Athanasiou might be the most noticeable, given he’s still second on the team with 11 goals.
“I’ve had a couple of breakaways, the chances are still there,” Athanasiou said. “Sometimes pucks don’t go your way. Probably overshooting it would be the best option right now. Anytime things aren’t going your way, the best bet is just put the puck on the net.”
“Once they start going in, you can start going and making plays.”
Coach Jeff Blashill remembered the particular play against Ottawa. For Blashill, it was sign that Athanasiou’s confidence currently might not be where it needs to be.
“If he’s rolling, he’s shooting the puck in the net all day long,” Blashill said. “The other side of it, is just like everybody else, he has to be checking for his chances and playing on the right side of the puck. Momentum is a huge thing in this game, and if you’re not playing great defensively, you’re digging it out of your net and they have all the momentum and you’re spending more time defending.
“The best way to get out of it is keep working and playing from the defensive side of the puck.”
Working on the defensive end is how Blashill believes the Wings can snap out of their offensive slump.
“The only way to work yourself out of it is one, is to work,” Blashill said. “You have to work, and two, you can’t cheat for offense. Those two things, I know 100 percent. Sometimes guys stop working and a lot of times they start cheating for offense. That usually leads to playing more defense
“If you do that, you’ll end up having the offensive side of the puck go your way. The season is going to ebb and flow. But certainly we have to make sure guys dig in a little bit, that are struggling.”
Much of Wednesday’s practice was devoted to defensive zone coverage, and getting the puck out of the zone.
“I would tell you that we’ve given up way too many chances in the last 10 games,” Blashill said. “If you give up that many chances, you’re not going to win. One specific area that we obviously worked lots on today was defensive zone, and just being faster there. We’ve been too slow, so we spend too much time and that wrecks your offense because you’re basically just getting it out to change.”
The Wings escaped another injury scare when Dylan Larkin went down during a battle drill, skated off the ice briefly, but just as quickly returned to the ice.
“I’m assuming it’s a bump or bruise, based on the fact he came back and said he was fine,” Blashill said.
…The Wings had to stay at one end of the rink for most of the practice because a pane of glass shattered at the other end, at the Hurricanes’ practice rink the Wings were using.
“We improvised,” Blashill said. “We just had to do it one way. It just takes a bit longer, but other than that, exactly what we were going to do.”
Red Wings at Hurricanes
Faceoff: 7 p.m. Thursday, PNC Arena, Raleigh, N.C.
TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 The Ticket.
Outlook: The Hurricanes (14-13-5, 33 points) have split two games with the Wings this season…C Sebastian Aho (22 assists, 34 points) and rookie RW Andrei Svechnikov (nine goals) are part of a young, promising offensive attack.