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Athanasiou could make Red Wings debut Thursday

After first practice with Detroit, forward says he's taking return day by day

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- Detroit Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou practiced with his teammates for the first time Wednesday and could play against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; SUN, FS-D, NHL.TV).

Athanasiou, who had been a restricted free agent, signed a one-year, $1.378 million contract on Saturday and had his work visa approved Tuesday. He had 29 points (18 goals, 11 assists) in 64 games with the Red Wings last season, and has 43 points (27 goals, 16 assists) in 101 NHL games, all with Detroit.

"It's been a little bit stressful but I'm happy to be back here with the guys," Anathasiou said. "I felt good out there. I think we're taking it day-by-day and seeing how I feel. If tomorrow I'm ready, I think [he and the Red Wings will] know and I'll be ready to go."

Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said he wasn't sure if Athanasiou would play against the Lightning or wait until Saturday, when the Red Wings play at the Florida Panthers. Nevertheless, he was pleased to have Athanasiou back on the roster.

"I thought he looked good, I mean we know he's a good skater," Blashill said. "I think he's trained hard in Europe and I know he skated in Toronto, so I thought he looked good."

Video: MIN@DET: Athanasiou dekes out Dubnyk for OT winner

Athanasiou skated on a line with Frans Nielsen and Darren Helm on Wednesday. He also participated on the second power-play unit with Nielsen and forwards Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha.

Blashill said he would like to keep that power play intact, but likely not use Athanasiou on penalty-killing units for the first couple of games. 

"I think he's chomping at the bit and wanting to play, so usually when guys are like that it looks good, but we'll make that determination tomorrow."

The Red Wings plan to use Athanasiou in a top-nine role as well as on special teams. He was a healthy scratch at times last season, but he said he understood those coaching decisions and there were no hard feelings on either side.

"You always want to play hockey; no one likes to sit," Athanasiou said. "We spoke about it a little bit and I mean, you've got to earn your ice, and that's always what I've tried to do. No matter how much ice I get I try to make the most of it, so I'm never bitter about it and always do the best with what I've got."

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