Amid a frustrating, challenging season, Andreas Athanasiou beckons as a beacon of a better future. Athanasiou is well on pace for a career year with the Detroit Red Wings, his 17 goals already one more than he scored last season and just one shy of his personal best. He recorded his third two-goal game of the season Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena as the Wings fell 3-2 to the Montreal Canadiens . That gave Athanasiou six goals in his last seven games. He is second on the team in goals and third with 27 points. His production does not reflect how well he played in October, when he was generating chances regularly even as the points weren’t coming. “His daily approach in practice has been very good,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “His engagement and work ethic from day one has been very good and I think with that, when he does that on a consistent basis, he’s a real good player and that shows up in games. “I think how you approach every day ultimately tells how you are going to play, and he’s done a good job with that.” That reflects maturity on Athanasiou’s part. He’s too talented a forward to go through quiet stretches like he did as recently as last season, when he went without a goal for stretches of 15 games and 13 games. This season he has not gone more than three games in a row without a point, and that dates to October, when the Wings struggled to mask injuries. “You’re seeing more of him doing it on a nightly basis,” veteran Niklas Kronwall said. “In the past, in his early years in the league, it was more bits and pieces. He is doing it on a more consistent basis and that’s really paying off. “You talk guys with an X-factor, he’s a guy that can score a goal out of nowhere. The way he skates, he is going to get opportunities just because of how talented he is.” Athanasiou’s performance brightened a night that capped a disappointing home stand that saw the Wings in position to win every game but only manage to go 1-3-1. Now they’re on the road five of their next six games. “You just have to stick with it, stick with it,” Kronwall said. “Keep grinding. Everything starts with hard work and trying to do it right every day.” Athanasiou is certainly doing his part. He said during camp he’d be consistent if the minutes were , and has followed through on that. He’s averaging 16:25 minutes per game, up from the 15:19 he averaged last season, and is a mainstay on the power play. “I just try to play hard every night, bring my game and do what I have to do to be ready,” Athanasiou said. “I just go out there and play my game.” Teammates have gotten used to seeing Athanasiou blaze off with the puck. “It seems like just out of nowhere he can make something happen and he can put it in the back of the net,” Jimmy Howard said. “He’s very talented - he’s got great hands, a great shot. For someone that sees him on a daily basis, it’s no surprise. I just think he’s using his speed to his advantage and his shiftiness out there, he’s finding ways to get open. He’s using his speed to get in behind defenses and he’s getting rewarded for it.” Athanasiou, 24, is cementing himself as a driving force of the rebuilding process, something that was in doubt last season when he held out in a contract dispute. He came into this season with a two-year, $6 million contract and looked motivated from the start of training camp. “He was engaged and on it,” Blashill said. “His preseason was outstanding for the most part. I just think he’s done a good job of taking steps in the right direction. He’s been a good player but he’s established himself as a consistently good player for our hockey team.” Contact Helene St. James: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Check out our Red Wings Xtra app on Apple and Android !