ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The New York Rangers will play two outdoor hockey games in four days next month, but Detroit Red Wings forward Luke Glendening has a chance to do something no North American professional hockey player has ever done.
Glendening played Monday night for the defending American Hockey League champion Grand Rapids Griffins at Comerica Park against the Toronto Marlies as part of the SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival. He was officially recalled Tuesday by the Red Wings, and he is expected to be in the lineup Wednesday when Detroit faces the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic (1 p.m. ET: NBC, CBC, RDS).
"I was driving home with my mom [Monday night] and I got a call from [Grand Rapids coach Jeff] Blashill that I needed to be here by 11 [a.m.] today," Glendening said. "I'm not sure what the decision or the factor was, but I'm back here and I'm excited."
Glendening is a native of Grand Rapids, so he was driving back after the game at Comerica when his coach called. He is also a University of Michigan alum, having played for the Wolverines from 2008-12, including "The Big Chill at The Big House," the first hockey game played at Michigan Stadium between the Wolverines and the archrival Michigan State Spartans.
He had been with the Red Wings because of a spate of injuries, but was assigned Sunday to Grand Rapids because Darren Helm was ready to return. For about 24 hours, it appeared the chance to play again in Michigan Stadium had been taken away from him.
"I had a great time playing in the game [Monday] night for Grand Rapids against Toronto. That was a special moment, a special game," Glendening said. "But it was obviously a little disheartening to not be able to play in this one. To have that opportunity now is pretty cool. ... I was planning on watching this one on TV and excited to see how it turned out. Now that I'm going to have an opportunity to be part of it, I'm really excited."
Glendening was not drafted, but has had a rapid ascent to the NHL for someone in that position. He signed an amateur tryout contract with the Providence Bruins at the end of the 2011-12 season, a one-year American Hockey League deal with the Griffins before 2012-13 and a one-year, two-way deal with the Red Wings before this season.
Even with that contract, Glendening wasn't expected to contribute at the NHL level, but injuries have wrecked the Red Wings lineup and he has impressed during his brief NHL career.
"Glendening had a real good game last time we played Toronto," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "He's a heavy guy who knows how to play. He's a Michigan alum. He scored two [goals Monday] night. None of that went into to it to tell the truth, but he's a good player. He knows how to play and he plays hard. He's in."
There is also a tactical aspect for bringing Glendening back and sending Tomas Jurco, another rookie who has impressed, to the AHL for at least the day.
"[Monday] night as the game wore on [against the Nashville Predators], Mike wanted to put [Pavel Datsyuk] and [Henrik Zetterberg] together," Detroit general manager Ken Holland said. "To roll four lines, we need three more [centers]. Obviously Helm can play in the middle, [Joakim] Andersson can play in the middle. He cut back because he didn't have another guy, so Glendening ... if you want to play Z in the two-hole, Glendening can play right wing and then if you want to play Z with Pav then he can slide over to the middle. It gives the coach the flexibility [Wednesday] to play Pav and Z together or apart."
Babcock said part of the reason Glendening was sent down was so he would get to experience an outdoor game. He was worried at the time Glendening would be a healthy scratch Wednesday.
Instead, Glendening has the chance to pull off an unprecedented outdoor double. His family was at Comerica for the first one, but Glendening has some work to do on short notice to get them in the building for the second game.
"I just told my dad to let me know what he needed and I would try to figure it out," he said.
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