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Athanasiou looks to build on solid season next year

Speedy forward had 18 goals, doubling his total from previous season

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT - There is no question that Andreas Athanasiou is one of the more electrifying players on the Red Wings.

Athanasiou, 22, blends elite speed with great hands, which led to him scoring 18 goals and 11 assists in 64 games this past season.

"Definitely speed is part of my game, when I get those chances and opportunities I know I can either give us a good scoring chance or even change the momentum of the game with getting the guys going," Athanasiou said.

The end of Athanasiou's season was marred by an injury he suffered on March 27 when he was cross-checked by Carolina's Victor Rask while scoring the game-winner in overtime.

It was Athanasiou's second straight game scoring the overtime winning goal.

Athanasiou missed the second game the following night in Carolina but returned to play four straight before missing the final two games of the season.

"You can see in those last couple of games I had trouble skating, so it's tough to play in those situations when you want go and you physically can't," Athanasiou said. "I know how much speed I have and when I feel it down a couple of notches, it wasn't a good feeling."

Athanasiou said the injury does not require surgery, just rest.

It was a bitter disappointment for Athanasiou to miss the last game at Joe Louis Arena.

"It was a terrible feeling," Athanasiou said. "It's a game that's going to be part of history for a really, really long time. So, the couple of days I was really trying to push to get in the lineup and I couldn't, it was a tough situation for me a tough situation to watch, but I was happy with the result and the fans were unbelievable and I think everyone enjoyed their time here in the last game so I was happy to see that."

Athanasiou did join his teammates and the former players on the ice for the post-game ceremony.

It was not the only injury for Athanasiou in what was an injury-filled season for the Wings.

Athanasiou missed 12 games from Dec. 12-Jan. 6 with a sprained knee.

After making the team out of training camp, Athanasiou doubled his production from the previous season when he had nine goals and five assists in 37 games.

"I think from an individual standpoint, I don't want to say I'm happy with my production because I always want to do better than what happened, but I think the goal for next year is to step it up and do even better," Athanasiou said. "For this year I don't think they're terrible numbers. I did well with what I was given."

There were 18 players in the league who scored 18 goals this year but Athanasiou needed the fewest games to do so.

Athanasiou also managed that total averaging just 13:27 ice time, the lowest of the 18-goal scorers.

Wings coach Jeff Blashill sat Athanasiou on Jan. 4 at Anaheim, telling reporters that he expected every player to come to work and compete every day in both practices and games.

"Obviously I see some people comment on it, message me about it or tell me about it, but I don't pay too much attention, this is a team here and every night it's going to take a team effort to win," Athanasiou said. "As for individual efforts, I'm going to take care of that and make sure that I'm good for this team and making sure I give us what I can give."

The game after being a healthy scratch, Athanasiou responded with a goal and two assists in a 4-0 win at Los Angeles.

Late in the season, Athanasiou found some chemistry on a line with Justin Abdelkader and fellow speedster Dylan Larkin.

Now that Athanasiou has 101 NHL games under his belt, he looks to take the next step in his development.

"You learn so much playing in this league there's not just one thing you can take away, there's so many I can't pinpoint one, but I just try and do the best I can and play within my game and just try not to do too much," Athanasiou said.

"I think it's coming into every game next season trying to be as dominant as possible."

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