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Notes: Athanasiou learning when to fly for Red Wings

Gustav Nyquist takes maintenance day, expected to play Friday; Darren Helm practices, might play

by Arthur J. Regner and Dana Wakiji @ArthurJRegner and @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT - We've all heard the biggest adjustment a pro athlete has to make from one level to the next is the speed of the game.

Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou never looked at the speed of the NHL as a daunting obstacle as he's well aware he's a fast player and feels his speed has worked out to his advantage in the NHL.

"Because of my speed I've been able to get kind of a feel for it (the pace of the NHL) a little bit quicker, I can see how fast it's going," Athanasiou said. "Once I stepped into the OHL it was a little faster, the AHL it was a little faster and then the NHL, you kind of adjust. I think it's been good, but I am still making a bit of an adjustment because of the speed."

Athanasiou isn't referring to getting used to the speed of the NHL, he's talking about when to use his speed during a game.

"You have to know when to use it, you just can't go fly around. That can take you out of position a lot of times," Athanasiou said. "You have to be smart about it and stay on the defensive side and when you kind of know when you're going to get the puck, when your team is going to get the puck, that's when you can take off from an offensive standpoint."

In 57 games played, Athanasiou is second on the Wings with 16 goals and has tallied 26 points.

At times he been disappointed with his ice time, but he realizes that he and many of his young teammates are going through a learning cycle.

"Every season you come into, you learn every day. It's a never-ending learning game in this line of work," Athanasiou said. "I wouldn't say just this season from a learning standpoint, it's every day that you pick something up and take something away from it.

"There are so many good players on this team, it's a tough situation, he's (Wings coach Jeff Blashill) going to play the players who he thinks are going, in certain situations in a game he's trying to match lines. I mean, what can you do? I know when my name gets called I am ready to go. I don't look much more past that.

"Definitely I am happy with what I am doing with what I get. Every chance I get I have to make the most of it. You never know when it'll be your next shift."

NO TANKING: When a team's playoff chances begin to dim and the reality of a disappointing season begins to take hold, many fans begin to whisper about seeing their team tank the season to improve their draft position.

Justin Abdelkader is familiar with the tanking mindset and feels that in today's professional environment, tanking is near impossible.

"The leagues (all pro leagues) have a done a good job of not rewarding the team that finishes last by creating a lottery. So, you hope there is no tanking going for that first pick," said Abdelkader. "There is so much parity in the league. The last-place team can beat the first-place team on any given night.

"Teams are going to play hard; guys are going to play hard. There are all these moving parts on rosters -- young guys are coming up, guys are fighting for positions and roster spots for the following year."

Abdelkader believes tanking defies everything an athlete is taught.

It goes against the athlete's code of conduct.

"No one in any locker room or on any team is trying to tank a season or go for a draft pick. We are all prideful, we are going to play hard each and every day and try and win," Abdelkader said. "That's what we're instructed to do. That's what we've been taught to do since the day we played our first game.

"You line up against the guy across from you and you have to beat him to win. And that's what we'll continue to do each and every day."

LINEUP FOR LIGHTNING: Gustav Nyquist did not practice Thursday but Blashill said it was a maintenance day and he expects Nyquist to play Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Taking Nyquist's spot on the line with Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Tatar was Darren Helm, who has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury.

"Possible," Blashill said of Helm. "No contact really, today, so it'll still be a decision tomorrow."

Petr Mrazek is set to start against the Lightning.

X'S BIG NIGHT: The Wings have played in Montreal plenty of times since joining the Eastern Conference but for Xavier Ouellet, Tuesday night was a first.

Ouellet got to play for the Wings for the first time in Montreal and there were plenty of people cheering for him at Bell Centre.

"It's hard to explain. It was pretty crazy, lots of emotion," Ouellet said. "I had a lot of people there, my family was there, a lot of friends. I had a lot of people reaching out to me so it was pretty nerve-wracking and really exciting. One of the good moments so far."

Canadiens TV had Ouellet on for a pre-game interview and mentioned that it was his first NHL game in his hometown.

The Wings even got a 2-1 overtime victory, thanks to the other French-Canadian on the team, Anthony Mantha, who scored with 49.6 seconds left in overtime.

"It was a good game," Ouellet said. "We played a good game altogether. That's the type of game that I wanted to win, that he wanted to win too. You go back home, you want to play good and you want to win."

There was a huge crowd of people waiting for both Ouellet and Mantha after the game.

"I must have had 15-20 people down there after, say hi, longtime friends and family, my grandparents that played a huge role in my growing up, driving me everywhere," Ouellet said. "It was just fun to see and kind of a way to say thank you and show them where it brought me."

Ouellet's father, Robert, played hockey in France, which is why Xavier was born in Bayonne, France, even though the rest of the family was born in Quebec.

"He went to Boston a few years ago when I played in the playoffs," Ouellet said. "He was really emotional that time. He went to Toronto a couple times, he's been here in Detroit. So I think the fact that he came to a lot of games helped him a little bit. But it was emotional after to see all the faces and them seeing me, it was pretty cool."

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