But the Red Wings (10-9-2) are no soft touch these days. After a 1-7-2 start Detroit is 9-2-0 in its past 11 games. Their latest outing was a 3-2 overtime win against the visiting Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.
Athanasiou has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his past six games.
"Obviously it was a little bit of a slow start with some unfortunate bounces and a lot of things that just weren't going our way, but we stuck with it and kind of worked our way out of it and can kind of see things are starting to turn," Athanasiou said. "We're playing really good hockey so it's definitely a lot of fun."
Howard is 6-1-0 with a .936 save percentage in his past seven starts and the Red Wings are above .500.
"To me it means we're one game above .500 and we've got to go play Washington and find a way to win," coach Jeff Blashill said. "We've got to keep getting better here, keep finding ways to win, and keep putting points on the board."
Washington (11-7-3) is playing strong hockey despite the continued absence of top-six forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie. They did not practice Thursday and will miss Friday's game with upper-body injuries.
Braden Holtby made 37 saves for the Capitals in a 4-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.
"Yeah, that was a really balanced attack tonight," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. "I feel we did the best we could to shut down their top line and still get contributions offensively from some other guys as well. So, it was a good team win for us."
The win gave the Stanley Cup champions their first three-game winning streak of the season. The first two games of which came on the road in overtime.
"Obviously, it was a shorter summer for us and a shorter time to prepare ourselves for the season," Burakovsky said. "Just to get back after a year that we had, I think it's tough to get in and get going right away. So, we're building our game slowly and tonight I think we did exactly what we wanted."
Nicklas Backstrom had an assist Wednesday and has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past 10 games.
Washington is third in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind Columbus and the streaking New York Rangers. The Capitals visit the Rangers on Saturday.
Holtby is 9-2-2 with a 2.19 goals-against average, a .920 save percentage and one shutout against the Red Wings. Howard is 4-3-3 with a 2.82 GAA and .900 save percentage versus Washington.
Ovechkin has 21 points (12 goals, nine assists) in 23 games against the Red Wings.
The Capitals were 2-0-1 against the Red Wings last season with one of the wins coming in overtime.