Articles from practice: Athanasiou discusses his ‘benching’; on the Bolts, the Fathers’ Trip and Tatar’s Olympic excitement

The Red Wings practiced at Little Caesars Arena ahead of a road trip to Tampa Bay and Nashville on Wednesday, and several topics emerged from the team’s pre-flight media availability.

First, Andreas Athanasiou addressed the fact that he was “benched” during the third period of the Wings’ win over Anaheim, as noted by the Free Press’s Helene St. James

Athanasiou played just one shift in the third period of Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over Anaheim, the result of the Ducks opting to play just three lines and Athanasiou not generating enough offensively through 40 minutes. Blashill made sure Wednesday that Athanasiou knew it was a short benching.

“I talked to him real quick, just said I didn’t think he was going last night, and he’s going to get a chance to go in Tampa,” Blashills said. “I told him get right back on the horse against Tampa. We need him to be a real good player so hopefully he comes out and he’s flying against Tampa.

 “There’s other guys, some nights their minutes are diminished about it and we don’t talk tons about it. But because of the profile of AA, we talk lots about it. My job is to make sure they know where they stand, so I made sure and told him that.”

Athanasiou has no goals and three assists his last 11 games. He’s still averaged 15:26 minutes per game, and topped 18 minutes last Sunday at Washington. Tuesday he played 9:38.“It’s never fun not hearing it but there’s nothing you can do about it,” Athanasiou said. “He’s got to make his decisions to win the game and fortunately we won the game, so that’s great.

“He’s going to make adjustments with everyone and see who is going and try to feed them ice. If he sees someone not going, he’s going to pull them back and let the guys who he thinks are going, go. With whatever I get, I’m going to try to make the most of it. However many minutes it is, I’ll try to do the best I can.“

MLive’s Ansar Khan

Athanasiou has 10 goals and 24 points in 45 games. He has experienced brief stretches of dominance during his short NHL career, but also has gone through lengthy slumps. He has been benched during games occasionally and was a healthy scratch on a couple of occasions last season.

“I think to be an elite player in this league – I said it lots, (Mike Babcock) said it lots – you have to do it every night,” Blashill said. “Elite players don’t go in and out. … AA is no different than any of our young guys that want to be elite. They’ll either prove they’re elite on a consistent basis by dominating games … and when they don’t dominate they’re still real good and help teams win.”

Athanasiou said it’s “never fun” not hearing your name called to go on the ice.

“The way the game unfolds, he’s got to make coaching adjustments and line matchups,” he said. “That’s just the way some games go. You just got to be ready whenever you’re called. No one likes to sit. It’s just the way it is. We got the two points, it’s the biggest thing.”

Athanasiou said of his scoring slump: “I think I’m getting some chances, I missed some breakaways. I’m not too worried.”

Asked how he can become more consistent, Athanasiou said, “I think that just comes with how much you’re out there. You get out there a lot, you’re obviously going to generate some more numbers, as opposed to when you get out there a little bit less, it’s tougher.”

And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:

Athanasiou has struggled offensively, not scoring a goal in 11 games — and only on goal in the last 15 games, with three assists in that span.

In his short NHL career, consistency is an area Athanasiou has struggled, and continues to do so.

“The key is trying to find that consistency every game,” Athanasiou said. “Every game, being out th ere and just producing with what I get (ice time). It’s the way it is, and you have to make do with what you got.”

Blashill is pleased with the way Athanasiou has been responding to coaching and instruction this season, and particularly over the last month as Athanasiou’s offense has stalled.

“He’s been real receptive the last month whenever I’ve talked to him,” Blashill said. “Whether it’s criticism or positive, it’s trying to help him be the best possible player and helping our team. No doubt, for us, we need him to be a real good player and play at a high level. Hopefully he comes out and is flying against Tampa.”

Athanasiou was clear as to what was expected of him.

“We all know the structure in this room and just sticking to it,” he said. “Whenever I get my chances, I have to make the most of them. With whatever (ice time) I get tomorrow, I’m going to try to make the most of it and whatever minutes it is, I’ll try to do the best I can to help the team.”

The other topic of the day involved the Wings’ struggles against Tampa Bay, as noted by’s Dana Wakiji:

The Wings are looking to snap a 10-game losing streak in Tampa Thursday night.

“The results have been bad from the win-loss standpoint without question,” Blashill said. “I actually think there’s been lots of moments we’ve played really, really well against them but we got to find a way to win. We got to take the things that we’ve done well and we’ve got to eliminate the areas where they’ve exploited us.

“I thought the first period the last time we played them here, they took advantage of us on their rush offense and their O-zone offense a little bit, and I thought the rest of the game we played well. They’re going to create chances, I watched them against Toronto the other night, they can create tons of chances. So we got to try to get them on their heels and make them defend as much as possible. When they have the puck, they’re a real good team.”

With a mostly healthy group this year, the Lightning have racked up a league-leading 79 points in 57 games, including a league-best 36 wins in regulation or overtime.

The last time the Red Wings beat the Lightning was on April 17, 2016, a 2-0 win in Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs.

The last time the Wings beat the Lightning in the regular season was a 2-1 victory on Nov. 3, 2015 at Joe Louis Arena.

“Last few games, I think we play really well,” Tatar said. “We just have to continue. Last game against Tampa, we deserved better result than it actually was. We played a good game. We just have to be good on the forecheck, not commit any turnovers, shoot the puck and get ready for the game.”

The Wings also talked about the Fathers and Mentors’ Trip, as noted by the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan

This weekend is the annual Fathers Trip, where the Red Wings’ dads accompany their sons on this trip through Tampa and Nashville. The dads are on the team plane, sit through the meetings, go to the morning skate, essentially live the life of an NHL player .

If not their father, players can invite their brother, father in-law, former coach, mentor or a friend. It’s obviously a road trip everyone looks forward to every season.

“My dad is here, it’s his second one, and he’s excited,” forward Andreas Athanasiou said. “He’ll have a lot of fun. It’s always nice to see everyone. Your dad, he got you to this point. It’s nice to share it with him.”

Blashill has his father with him on this trip, too, and is looking forward to it.

“My dad, he’s not getting any younger,” Blashill said “He’s still spry, I guess, so to be able to share these kind of moments is real special. Most of our guys understand, they get it, certainly, as you get older and your parents get older and the kids get older, you gain a better appreciation.

“It’s a great thing. Some guys have their dads, other guys have mentors and friends, and to be able to share what is the NHL experience with other people is an awesome thing.”

And Tomas Tatar got into the Olympic spirit on Wednesday morning, as noted by MLive’s Ansar Khan:

Tatar was able to revel in Slovakia’s big 3-2 upset Wednesday over the Olympic Athletes from Russia, the tournament favorites.

“It was pretty cool to see Slovakia beat Russia in the Olympics,” Tatar said. “It’s a huge tournament, so good for them. Good start for us, for sure.”

It’s almost like his country’s own Miracle on Ice.

“It’s huge, just from what I open social media, it was all over,” Tatar said. “It’s a big win for sure. It’s an open tournament. It’s going to be interesting to see who’s going to win.”

Asked if this was Slovakia’s most memorable Olympic moment, Tatar said: “We were actually fourth in Vancouver Olympics with NHL players (in 2010). It was pretty big. Unfortunately, we lost to Finland for third place (bronze medal) and were leading by two goals before the third, so it’s a little disappointment after that.”

In the multimedia department, Khan spoke with Tatar about the Olympics…

St. James spoke with Tatar about the Olympics, and  Athanasiou and Blashill about AA’s benching:

And the Red Wings posted Twitter videos of comments from Blashill…

Bertuzzi and Frk…

And Booth, Bertuzzi and more regarding the Fathers’ Trip:

Update: Among Hockeybuzz’s Bob Duff’s notes:

Jan Can: As an American, Blashill wasn’t pleased to see the USA lose 3-2 to Slovenia in their opening men’s hockey game at the Olympics, but he was delighted to see former Wings forward Jan Mursak net the tying and winning goals for the Slovenians.

“ I was disappointed for the U.S. team,” Blashill said. “But I love Jan. Jan’s a great, great guy. He was great for me in Grand Rapids, I had him here in Detroit as an assistant, too. He plays hard. It doesn’t surprise me he’s having success and having success in that tournament.”

Mursak posted 2-2-4 totals in 46 games for the Wings from 2010-13.

Men Without Hats: Fifty-five games into the season, the Red Wings are still seeking their first hat trick. Tomas Tatar was the last Detroit player to register a three-goal game, on Dec. 17, 2016 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The Wings went through all of 2017 without a hat-trick, joining 1971 and 1931 as the only calendar years that a Detroit player did not fire a hat trick. They’ve gone an entire season without a player recording a three-goal game just once since 1971, and that was in 2008-09.

The other seasons in which the Wings did not have a player net a hat trick were 1970-71, 1953-54, 1941-42, 1931-32 and 1928-29.

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.

One thought on “Articles from practice: Athanasiou discusses his ‘benching’; on the Bolts, the Fathers’ Trip and Tatar’s Olympic excitement”

  1. I would be surprised if it was Tatar, Nyquist even Z that had their mins cut. Contract negotiations will be hilarious with AA this summer. Hope you go to a good team, AA maybe take Mrazek with you. Best for your careers, IMO

    Sinking deeper next year unless KH goes insane , still trying to make playoffs.

    Does KH know the smart GMs get what they want before the trade deadline leaving garbage for KH and a few GMs shooting for lowering there spending.

    Play Howard vs Tampa and Nashvile, LOL

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