Andreas Athanasiou's absence hits Red Wings at critical juncture

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The injury list keeps getting longer for the Red Wings, and that’s never a good formula for any sort of success.

The Wings found out before the game Saturday — which turned into a 2-1 loss against Florida — they’d be without forward Andreas Athanasiou, which was termed an upper body injury.

Athanasiou took warm-ups but didn’t feel capable of playing.

“He had an upper body from the other day, but I anticipated him playing coming to the rink,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He thought he was going to play yesterday (Friday), that’s the knowledge I was given.

“Then we got here today and it didn’t feel good and he wasn’t able to go.”

Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou (upper body injury) did not play Saturday against Florida and didn't appear as if he would be available against Toronto on Sunday.

Before going on holiday break for three days, the Wings close out the schedule Sunday in Toronto. But it didn’t sound as if Athanasiou will be ready.

“I would call him certainly questionable,” Blashill said.

More:Red Wings go to the net, create havoc, get 'dirty goals'

More:Red Wings' Blashill pleased with Michael Rasmussen's development, despite growing pains

The loss of Athanasiou and his 11 goals — second on the team to Dylan Larkin’s 15 — only adds more offense and experience out of an already thin lineup.

The Wings are missing forwards Darren Helm (upper body) and Anthony Mantha (hand), and defensemen Danny DeKeyser (upper body) and Mike Green (lower body), all of whom aren’t likely to return until January.

With so many regulars out of the lineup, the toll is beginning to wear on the Wings. They’ve only won three of their last 11 games (3-6-2).

“You have to grind, and we have to find a way to grind through,” Blashill said. “We have to find a way tomorrow (Sunday) to put on pressure on Toronto and not let them come at us and try to play offense as much as we can against them.

“We’re going to have 20 dressed and good enough to win. We just have to go and execute at a high level.”

The attitude in the Wings’ locker room, as it’s been consistently through the injuries, is a next-man-up mentality.

“He’s obviously a dynamic player and it’s tough when you lose a guy like that,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “But (Wade) Megan came in and played real well and it gives other guys a chance to play more minutes and they played well, too.

“You can’t worry about the guys who aren’t here, and it’s about the guys who are going to go out and play, the 20 guys in here.”

Said defenseman Niklas Kronwall: “You make the most of what you have and we need everyone giong. We did an OK game, but we need to do a better job of coming through the neutral zone and it doesn’t matter what number you have on the jersey or what name is on the back, all of us who are playing, that’s who we have.”

Wasted opportunities

The Wings had chances to get back in Saturday’s game on the power play, but did nothing with them.

They were scoreless on four attempts, including two in the third period, when the Wings trailed by a goal and could have tied the game.

Not having Athanasiou certainly weakened one of the units, and the lack of chemistry was a factor.

“We didn’t get the results we wanted,” Kronwall said. “The first unit had some real good looks, and we just have to stay with it. The second unit, we have to do a better job, way better job. It’s just a wasted opportunity really.

“We had some chances, but we have to make sure we execute.”

Ice chips

Thomas Vanek scored the lone Wings' goal, and now has four points (two goals, two assists) in the last four games.

…Defensemen Filip Hronek is getting a bigger opportunity as his stay in the NHL goes on longer. Hronek played a season high 22 minutes, 54 seconds Saturday, and tied for the team lead with five shots.

…Goaltender Jimmy Howard returned after missing one start due to back spasms and stopped 21 of 23 shots.

…Defenseman Trevor Daley skated in his 999th NHL game.

Twitter: @tkulfan

Red Wings at Maple Leafs

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Scotiabank Center, Toronto

TV/radio: FSD/97.1 

Outlook: It’s the last game before a three-day holiday break around the NHL … and the Red Wings have a difficult one, as Toronto has one of the deeper and most explosive offensive lineups in the league headed by C Auston Matthews and C John Tavares … Toronto hosted the New York Rangers Saturday.