|Luke Glendening has six goals this season, including his first two-goal performance of his NHL career in Tuesday's 5-4 win at Florida. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings) |
TAMPA, Fla. – Familiarity with his teammates and the system, along with the support of coach Mike Babcock, has made all the difference in the world for Luke Glendening in his second NHL season.
Glendening continues to show tremendous improvement even as he learns to play different roles for the Red Wings, who take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight with first-place in the Atlantic Division at stake at Amalie Arena.
“Just confidence, getting used to the role more,” said Glendening, the former University of Michigan standout. “You’re still trying to prove yourself every night, at least I am. Just playing with confidence and I’m really excited to score.”
Glendening has already produced six goals and nine points in 48 games, eclipsing his one goal and seven points in 56 games from last season. But that’s just one aspect of his game that has seen vast improvement.
Glendening is among the league leaders in face-off percentage. He’s ranked No. 13 having won 307-of-554 draws – that’s a 55.4 winning percentage. An aggressive penalty killer, Glendening is also second on the team with 85 hits and second among team forwards with 41 blocks.
While he’s more and more confidence, Glendening knows that he can rest on his laurels.
“I still have a long way to go,” he said. “I’m happy things are going in the right direction but I think there’s still a lot of improvement to be made.”
From the first time he first saw him play in AHL Grand Rapids, Babcock knew that Glendening, a former two-time CCHA defensive player of the year in college, would be a tremendous addition to the Red Wings.
“I knew he could play in the National Hockey League but I thought he’d be a fourth-line winger,” Babcock said. “I didn’t think he was going to be as important to us as he is.”
For the most part, Glendening, who played wing in at Michigan, has been used as a fourth-line center in Babcock’s system. It’s only been recently that the 25-year-old from East Grand Rapids, Mich., has returned to the wing.
“It’s amazing when you’re competitive what can happen for you,” Babcock said. “If you’re competitive and you work every day and you live in the gym and you do things right you get better. That’s just the way it is. So he’s maximizing his skill set and his attributes, he’s a competitive guy, he’s hard to play against. He’s an important player for us.”
The move back to wing, this time on the third line with his roommate and center Riley Sheahan and left wing Stephen Weiss, paid handsomely for Glendening, who enjoyed the first two-goal game of his career in Tuesday’s 5-4 win at Florida.
“It’s great to see,” Sheahan said. “You kind of see a guy like that who works so hard and it’s kind of motivating to play with him. You want to work as hard as he can. It’s awesome that he’s getting some points, some scoring. He’s got a good touch around the net. It’s been fun playing with him.”
Continuing to improve and work hard every day remains a driving force for Glendening, while his coach’s compliments act as added motivation for him.
“For sure, that’s nice,” Glendening said. “Even when I was in Grand Rapids I felt he was in my corner. Obviously that’s nice. The coach gives you a little bit of confidence, that’s huge.
“I think I want to work hard regardless. I think it helps your game improve a little bit. You can play maybe a little more relaxed. But it doesn’t mean you can take your foot off the gas.”