Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin on brink of joining Red Wings' exclusive 30-goal club
Detroit — The Red Wings had four players reach and surpass the 30-goal milestone during the 2008-09 season.
Marian Hossa (40 goals), Johan Franzen (34), Pavel Datsyuk (32) and Henrik Zetterberg (31) all did it.
But no other Red Wing has done so since.
That sure seems like it’s about to change, though.
When you went to sleep late Monday night, Andreas Athanasiou scored his 29th goal and Dylan Larkin his 28th, as the Red Wings outplayed and defeated the playoff-bound San Jose Sharks 3-2.
With six games remaining on the schedule, and the way those two young forwards are playing, you have to like their chances of getting to 30.
The two centers — Athanasiou was switched to position around the trade deadline and is becoming increasingly comfortable — were particularly effective in the last two victories over playoffs teams Vegas, and Monday, the Sharks.
“The last two games, especially, they’ve both been super dangerous,” coach Jeff Blashill told DetroitRedWings.com. “Larks took a little bit coming back from the injury but now he’s really going. He’s super dangerous with the puck.
“Having both of them at center, when they get the puck in the middle of the ice, they’re dynamic. And they can skate away from you and they can push our pace. Those two have been a real bright spot the last bit.”
Athanasiou has seven goals in the last 10 games and is seemed to have chemistry with newly signed Taro Hirose (Michigan State), who has assists in his first four games in the NHL, during Monday’s victory.
Larkin went without a point in four games after returning from a neck strain. But Larkin stripped the puck, then fed Anthony Mantha, for the game-winning overtime goal Saturday in Vegas, then was all over the ice against the Sharks, seemingly having regained his timing and quickness.
Larkin’s linemate Mantha also had two of his best games in the two victories, being as noticeable and engaged as Mantha had in days.
“Mantha was excellent again (Monday),” Blashill said. “That’s two nights in a row, he’s been excellent. When he skates like that, he’s an excellent player.
“He just needs to keep doing it on a nightly basis.”
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier made 39 saves against the Sharks, and continues his late-season surge.
Bernier wasn’t getting much luck earlier in the season, a variety of factors usually working against him in a given start.
But in several starts recently, Bernier has played great in net and gotten the bounces to go his way.
“It’s refreshing,” Bernier told DetroitRedWings.com. “At the end of the day, when you put the effort in at some point, you’re gonna be rewarded and I feel like I’ve been working hard all year and like I mentioned from the last game, as you play more, your reads are better, your control of rebounds is better. You feel more comfortable in net.”
Bernier and Jimmy Howard, who starred Saturday in Vegas, both have been consistently effective the last several weeks.
“Both those games our goalies have been excellent, and it’s a league where you need excellent goaltending to win,” Blashill said. “It’s hard to win without it and both goalies were excellent here and in Vegas.
“(Monday) Bernier did a good job of hanging in there. They do as good a job of shooting pucks and tipping pucks and being hard around the net as anybody in the league. Certainly they’re as hard around the net as anybody is.
“Bernie hung in there and fought through traffic and was able to smother pucks and those types of things.”
The Wings will have a practice Wednesday at Belfor Training Center and go right back on the road to finish this five-game trip Thursday in Buffalo.
… Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson returned to the lineup Monday and played 17 minutes, 20 seconds, and was credited with a team-high 8 hits.
… Luke Glendening made, arguably, the play of the game on the Wings’ third — and eventual — game-winning goal, out-racing the Sharks to the puck and feeding Christoffer Ehn for the shorthanded goal.
“What a play by Glenny,” Blashill said. “Glenny was awesome (Monday). The sacrifice that he shows. He plays through pain. Just amazing. He was tired at the end of a shift but he was still able to battle to get down there and center that to Ehner. What a play.”