DETROIT – Luke Glendening’s never been afraid of working hard for everything he’s received.
Whether it was as a walk-on at the University of Michigan or as an undrafted rookie this season, Glendening has been a coach’s ideal commodity – a hard-working center, who is often utilized in key situations.
But while he often receives praise from his current coach, Glendening would feel more comfortable about Mike Babcock’s approval if he could just score that first NHL goal.
“I think I talk about it more because I want to score,” said Glendening, who played in his 50th NHL game Wednesday night. “I’ve never been known as a goal-scorer but it’s still frustrating when the goal never goes in. I get a lot of Grade-A opportunities and to not be able to find the net is frustrating. So it’s on my mind obviously, hence the reason I talk about it a lot.
“It’s hard to always be like, ‘Yeah, well I’m playing really well’ when your point production is so low. You really have to concentrate on other parts of your game.”
Nearly two weeks ago, Glendening established a new little known franchise record for rookie forwards when he surpassed Cummy Burton who had held the drought mark, playing his entire 43-game Detroit career without scoring a goal in the late 1950s.
The team record for going without a goal to start his Red Wings career is held by former defenseman Jim Watson (1963-70), who played 77 games without a goal.
Veteran forward Drew Miller, who isn’t known for his scoring acumen either, has been a good sounding board for Glendening.
“Scoring definitely is a huge part of hockey but I think when you look at the balance of a team you have different roles and the big-money people are the ones who are paid to score the goals,” Miller said. “If you’re going to have a good, successful team you need some balance and some guys you can count on to be consistent and defensive and step up in that department. I think that’s something that where Glennie has been finding a role, a niche, where he can produce and step up for the team in other ways than scoring.
“That’s something that I’ve prided my game on for a long time. You have to find a role that might not be the one that everyone looks at as the big role on the team that brings you maybe the accolades that some of the goal-scorers get, but every team needs that balance, and I think the guys that play that play their role and go about their business.”
Glendening knows he can’t get down on himself; he has a role to fill and he understands it. But getting that first goal, sooner than later, would make his ascension to the NHL much sweeter.
“I have to be good on face-offs, be good in my own zone, and be good on the penalty kill,” he said. “Just frustrate the other team, and hopefully, one of these days a goal is going to pop in. I can’t dwell on that because if I do it’s going to be a frustrating year. You just have to find a way to help the team out every night.”
The 24-year-old Glendening has been a trustworthy center for Babcock and the Red Wings, who have counted on him and a litany of youngsters to bridge the gap since a cavalcade of veterans landed on injured reserve this season.
At one point, all four centers that began the season in Detroit’s lineup – Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss, Darren Helm and Joakim Andersson – landed on IR. It could have been devastating to the Red Wings, who are still competing for a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season, if not for young players like Glendening, who has been called up from Grand Rapids six times this season.
Glendening has produced five assists with a minus-10 rating. He is third among forwards with 75 hits. He’s also one of the team’s most reliable penalty-killers, averaging 2:45 of ice-time in shorthanded situations.
“He competes every night. He does his best,” Babcock said. “Is he great every night? No, but he competes every night and he gives us an opportunity for success. He plays hard against people. He'll be in a matchup tonight that is going to be hard for him, but he's going to be hard on the other guy.”
The rookie center has been a steady contributor this season on the fourth-line forecheck, as well as in the face-off circle. An example of Glendening’s skill and his ability to stymie opposing top-line centers occurred in a 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins when he won 11-of-19 face-offs against Sidney Crosby.
“I didn't know he was going to play regular here,” Babcock said. “I thought he'd start as a right winger here. He's better than we expected, but there's a whole bunch of guys that.”
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