DETROIT – To say Luke Glendening is no stranger to outdoor hockey is an understatement.
The center played in his fourth outdoor contest under the lights at Comerica Park Monday night, scoring two goals in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Toronto Marlies, just 24 hours after the Red Wings reassigned him to the club’s minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids.
“Luke’s a real good hockey player one, but to come back in and be able to play after being up just getting back in last night I thought he did a real good job,” Griffins coach Jeff Blashill said. “Luke’s also a north-south hockey player so I think (it) benefits those types of players (who) excel in these conditions where the ice isn’t great and it’s hard to make lots of plays. He likes to go north-south and he did a good job that.”
But Glendening hardly thinks his experience outdoors gives him an advantage. Surprisingly, his two goals against the Marlies were his first points in the four outdoor games he’s appeared in.
“Yeah, it’s been a long time coming I guess,” Glendening said. “I’m glad to get rolling hopefully I’ll get rolling here a bit but I mean we still lost and that’s frustrating.”
The Grand Rapids, Michigan, native has split time between the Red Wings and Griffins this season, recording one assist in 16 games with Detroit and 10 points in 17 games with his hometown AHL team.
After spending the past two weeks with the Red Wings, Glendening was just three days shy of appearing in the 2014 NHL Winter Classic. The matchup between Detroit and Toronto would have marked his second outdoor game at Michigan Stadium, as he played in the Big Chill for Michigan against Michigan State in 2010. He also played against Wisconsin at Camp Randall in 2010 and against Ohio State at Cleveland's Progressive Field in 2012.
“Obviously it would have been quite an experience to play back where I went to school,” Glendening said. “I got to play in the Big Chill so that would’ve been fun but (Darren) Helm is a great player and I’m excited that he’s back and I’m excited to watch the game.”
In their first outdoor game in franchise history, the Griffins fell behind 1-0 early in the opening period. But defenseman Xavier Ouellet scooped up a rebound and scored from one knee on the doorstep, tying the game minutes later with his second goal of the season.
Ouellet is one of six current Griffins who have spent time with the Red Wings this season, including Adam Almquist, Cory Emmerton, Riley Sheahan, Jordin Tootoo and Glendening. The defenseman made his NHL debut in October, appearing in three games for Detroit.
Carter Ashton restored Toronto’s one-goal lead with two minutes left in the first, slipping his shot past goaltender Tom McCollum’s right shoulder from a tough angle.
“I think it’s hardest on the goalies,” Blashill said. “I’d have to go back and look at the history of outdoor games but I think it’s hardest on the goalies. The puck’s bouncing a little bit and it’s hard to track a little bit and it takes some getting used to. We only had a chance to have a pregame skate I thought he settled himself in and played real good the rest of the game.”
Two straight goals from Glendening gave the Griffins a 3-2 lead heading into the third period. The forward’s first goal bounced off the blade of goaltender Drew MacIntyre’s skate from a difficult angle, and he netted his second on a breakaway five minutes later.
“The first one I was embarrassed to look at the scoreboard but I guess they all count the same,” Glendening said. “But the first one I was actually trying to make a pass and it hit the goalie’s skate and the second one I got a great pass from (Brennan) Evans and fortunately it went in.”
The Griffins’ lead was short-lived, however, as Kenny Ryan tied the game just over two minutes into the final period.
“It was exciting,” Ryan said. “I thought our line played pretty well tonight. I just got the puck to the net. Obviously, it wasn’t great ice conditions out there tonight. I saw it laying there, tried to get a stick on it and knocked it in. It was pretty exciting.”
Neither team was able to score during the remainder of the game, and after a scoreless overtime period the Marlies held on to win in a shootout, converting on two of five of their attempts.
"The first one was just a nice move, he made a late cutback,” McCollum said of the shootout. “The second one I actually got a piece of with my glove, just didn't get enough of it."
The shootout was a fitting end to a historic game.
“I’ve never been part of one before so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but it’s a great venue, they did a great job putting it on,” Blashill said. “You deal with lots of different things that happen in a game like that but you take it all in and enjoy it and I think our guys enjoyed the experience for sure. We would’ve liked to end up with a win but that’s the way sports goes and I thought overall we gave a real good effort.
The Griffins return home to Van Andel Arena for a rematch New Year’s Eve rematch with the Marlies.
“We’re going to have to do a real good job of refocusing,” Blashill said. “The one good thing for us is the New Year’s Eve game is a real big game for us and our guys know there’s going to be a real good crowd so we’re going to have to refocus ourselves, put this event behind this. It was a great event but put it behind us and focus on playing tomorrow.”