Detroit Red Wings: Andreas Athanasiou Responding Well After Benching, Healthy Scratch


Detroit Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou got benched in the third period on December 29. And just ten days ago he was a healthy scratch against the Anaheim Ducks. Now the team relies heavily on him to provide offensive support—a quick turn around for the 22-year-old.

Although the Detroit Red Wings beat the Ottawa Senators in overtime on December 29, Andreas Athanasiou probably didn’t feel as good as his teammates after the game. He logged only 5:13 of ice time, none of which came in the third period. Jeff Blashill called him out, stating that he hadn’t been “engaged” enough.

Blashill bumped Athanasiou’s ice time up to 12:53 in the Centennial Classic, but he was still not satisfied. He subsequently scratched Athanasiou on January 4 against the Anaheim Ducks. Getting benched is bad enough, but getting healthy-scratched is even worse. Luckily for Athanasiou, he earned yet another chance to prove himself as he started against the Los Angeles Kings the next night.

And boy did he ever respond. In a first period outburst, Athanasiou assisted on Thomas Vanek’s goal 1:42 into the game, scored his own goal at the 10:02 mark, and assisted on another Vanek goal with 1:43 left. Despite Jared Coreau’s first NHL shutout and Vanek’s two goals, Athanasiou received the game’s first star accolade.

Over the next two games, Athanasiou potted two more goals, assisted on one, and even looked better on the defensive side of the puck. Blashill has rightly rewarded Athanasiou’s breakout, giving him 15:31 of ice time on Thursday against the Stars. And although he didn’t record a point, he recorded four shots on goal and continued playing competitive hockey.

Next: Preview of Tonight's Game Against Pittsburgh

Athanasiou has been skating on the second line with Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek. Even though the Red Wings have lost five of their past six, the second line has provided consistent offensive chances. The Pittsburgh Penguins, whom Detroit plays tonight, are masters at speed and scoring. So it’s up to Athanasiou and his linemates to match the Pens’ speed and chance generation. I see Athanasiou receiving 15+ minutes of ice time yet again, which would further prove Blashill’s new reliance on him.

Considering where Athanasiou was just a couple short weeks ago, that’s a significant change in trust. Blashill did the right thing by benching and scratching Athanasiou. It has lit a fire never before seen from him. He will need to continue to be excellent if Detroit plans on climbing out of the hole they’ve dug.