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Notes: Green enjoying fatherhood and his time in Detroit

Former Wing Gallant now an All-Star as coach of surprising Golden Knights

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

TAMPA -- Defenseman Mike Green, the Detroit Red Wings' representative at this year's All-Star Game, made one thing very clear during Saturday's Media Day in Tampa.

"I love Detroit. Really, I do," Green said. "I hope I stay. I understand how the process works. I'll go from there."

Green is in the final year of his contract with the Wings and knows that despite his no-trade clause, there will likely be teams inquiring about his availability with the Feb. 26 trade deadline looming.

"I kind of just go about my process and when there's decisions to be made on both sides, obviously, I'll come to it," Green said. "I love it in Detroit. I'm enjoying my time playing there right now. I can't do any more than that. There's a lot of uncertainty. Hopefully I stay."

Green's focus on the day-to-day work allows his mind to be free of the uncertainty that goes along with the coming weeks.

"I think I've been around long enough that it doesn't affect me," Green said. "I understand how it all works. With the uncertainty, there's not much I can do other than play good hockey. When there's decisions to be made, obviously we'll make some. I don't know any more than that."

Green has completely embraced Detroit, even though he spent the first 10 years of his career with the Washington Capitals.

"An Original Six team, I don't know if you can compare it," Green said. "I've played on a different team and the history, you can't really compare it to Detroit. Walking in the dressing room with all the pictures of the old players, the old captains, the amount of Stanley Cups they've won on the wall, it's pretty special. You have to take a moment to kind of respect and appreciate what that organization has done.

"If you've been to Detroit, it's a pretty incredible city and what's transpired there over a long period of time. I think away from hockey, you just have to appreciate the city itself. It's been nice to see how it's sort of reviving and coming back. With the new building, I'm sure that will continue."

Green appreciates the fact that he got to play in both Joe Louis Arena and now the brand new Little Caesars Arena with its practice rink right on the premises.

"It's been great," Green said. "The facility in itself is incredible. We're fortunate as players that we have this incredible workout facility. We're very spoiled in that sense. Comparing to the Joe, it's different. It was interesting when we started the season at the LCA as to what kind of energy it would bring. We knew what Joe Louis had and represented, which was history in itself. You could feel it. I think it's about creating the energy now in Little Caesars Arena and building a legacy there."

Green is far too young to have visited Olympia Stadium, but that doesn't mean he doesn't know the history surrounding it.

"I respect it, because when I first got to Detroit, I read this book on the history of all the buildings and the history of the Olympia was pretty cool," Green said.

Although just 32, Green has been in the league for a long time and has now found that the style of play has changed to actually better fit his skill set as an offensive-minded, puck-moving defenseman.

"I did get criticized a lot," Green said of his early career. "I think it's great to see these younger players coming up, the defensemen coming up that are extremely talented, that shoot the puck well and they jump up in the play. I love watching it. It's exciting to see. I think it's good for the game. It helps the game evolve and it's a good process."

Green says the game has changed a lot even in the last five or six years.

"The game is so much faster," Green said. "I think people, fans, the league really focuses on different things. In that sense, I've had to adjust my game a whole bunch, too. I like where the league is going - the fast pace, the young guys coming up. It's been great."

Green said coming to Detroit has helped him evolve as a player.

"I think finding that balance has always been the adjustment for me," Green said. "Trying to find the offense and defense. Playing in Detroit, they really focus on the defensive side of the puck. It's really helped my game try to balance out and I'm grateful for that."

Although Green's skating has always been one of his assets, he started using a skating coach in the offseason.

"I did, just to make sure I wasn't falling behind," Green said. "I was trying to prevent - as you get older, you don't want to be slapped in the face with, 'Oh, I can't skate anymore.' I'm trying to be proactive about it and make sure I can keep up."

Having an influx of young players on the Wings these last two seasons has been fun for Green.

"It's definitely helped me," Green said. "It's caused me to change my workout routines and approach because these guys are so fast, I've got to keep up. Playing with guys like Dylan Larkin that create so much energy just the way he skates and moves the puck up the ice, along with Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou) and (Anthony) Mantha and some other young kids coming up, it does create a lot of energy. I think that's what's exciting about Detroit. They have a lot of these great energy young players that are coming up and will be good."

But no doubt the best part for Green the last couple of years has been the birth of his son, Axel, who is almost two.

"We brought him to the rink the other day," Green said. "He doesn't come a whole bunch because it's a little late for games, but he's getting to the age where he can start coming. We brought him out to the rink and he was just shaking with excitement when he came out. We kind of kept him away, so now I'm like, he needs to get involved and be around a little more, because he's starting to understand now. That was special, really special, to see him so excited to be down at the rink."

Now the next step will be getting Axel as comfortable on the ice as his dad is. "We got him skates," Green said. "Whether he can skate or not is one thing. We've had him out on the ice and he just loves it. I'm sure he'll want to skate once he can."

FORMER RED WING STARS IN VEGAS: Gerard Gallant is getting a lot of well-deserved attention during the All-Star festivities.

Gallant has led the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to a 32-12-4 record and the team's 68 points is second in the league only to the Tampa Bay Lightning's 71.

"Seriously, we came into the season, there wasn't really expectations," Gallant said. "It was let's just play the next game and see how we get along. After the first nine games, we were 8-1 and the players got a lot of confidence and our players played good hockey. We haven't changed a thing. Let's keep it going. We don't have to worry about what we've done in the past 48 games or whatever it is to date, let's just keep playing forward and see where it goes. I don't think there's a lot of pressure on our organization and our group and that's the way you want it. Keep playing and keep working hard, keep having fun. We know where we're at. We don't have to talk about first place and that every day, we just work hard and play hard and try and get two points. That's all we do."

Right now, Gallant is certainly one of the top candidates for the Jack Adams Trophy, which goes to the best coach.

Having an expansion team be so successful, especially with players who aren't considered superstars, is a tremendous accomplishment.

"James Neal is a pretty big name, (Marc-Andre) Fleury's a pretty big name," Gallant said. "We don't have the big, big superstars but we have some guys that are real good hockey players and those guys have proven it. Neal's had 20 goals for 10 years in a row, Fleury's three Cups so our guys think that we've got some big-name players but for the most part, I agree with you 100 percent. It's guys that are trying to get to that next level, guys getting that opportunity and now people are talking about that. It's a lot of fun with our group and they're having fun. Fortunately for us, everybody's taking advantage of the opportunity."

Although Gallant has been a coach for many years, his NHL career started with the Red Wings.

Gallant was a sixth-round pick, 107th overall, in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft.

Gallant said he has lots of fond memories of being a Wing. "Being there 11 years. I loved it there, scoring my first goal, that was in my first game, was a memory I'll never forget," Gallant said. "A lot of good people, great organization, the Ilitch family was unbelievable to us. Kenny Holland, Jimmy Devellano, they all treated us real well. Obviously playing five-six years with my good friend Steve Yzerman on the same line. We had a lot of good memories there."

Gallant had 207 goals and 260 assists in 563 games with the Wings from 1984-1993.

MICHIGAN NATIVE AT NEW LEVEL: Just 24, Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, a Commerce, Mich. native, is beginning to establish himself as one of the best young goaltenders in the league.

This season, Hellebuyck is 26-6-7 with a 2.35 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.

Although his stats were perfectly respectable last season at 26-19-4 with a 2.89 goals-against average and .907 save percentage, Hellebuyck wasn't satisfied.

"I'm sure there's a lot of people that wrote me off after last year," Hellebuyck said. "So it is pretty nice to be here and to actually successfully show them that I have more. That being said, my team's playing very good in front of me. They're winning a lot of games and with team success comes individual success."

Some of the struggles Hellebuyck had last year have helped him this season.

"I just got better every single day," Hellebuyck said. "I could see myself improving, my game was improving. And I just learned that the NHL is a different type of grind than the AHL. Your body gets adjusted to it and you start working towards a better tomorrow and I think that's what I learned."

The Jets sit atop the Central Division with 66 points, one point ahead of the Nashville Predators.

Although the team signed goaltender Steve Mason as a free agent last July, Hellebuyck said his plans didn't change.

"It kind of said they want to see some improvement, they want to give this team the best chance they can to win," Hellebuyck said. "He's a great guy and a great goalie. At the end of the day, I wasn't changing what I was doing. I was going to come in, I was going to show that I can play and I was going to show how much I improved over the summer."

SWEDES OWE LIDSTROM: When you look at the All-Star rosters, you see Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman, Dallas' John Klingberg, Ottawa's Erik Karlsson and Arizona's Oliver Ekman-Larsson, all Swedish defensemen.

"I think we have a lot to thank Nick (Lidstrom) and I've been watching him growing up and I think he's every part of why we have so many good defensemen in the league right now," Ekman-Larsson said.

Ekman-Larsson said Lidstrom and Forsberg were his favorite players growing up.

Ekman-Larsson talked about what impressed him most about Lidstrom.

"Just that he kept the game so simple and how he handled himself on and off the ice," Ekman-Larsson said. "That was pretty impressive."

Ekman-Larsson, who was born in Karlskrona, the same town as Jonathan Ericsson, said he has had a chance to meet Lidstrom.

"I met him a couple of times so that was pretty cool," Ekman-Larsson said. "I was star-struck a little bit. It was a really special feeling."

Now the league is getting ready for the next wave of young Swedish blue liners as Rasmus Dahlin is expected to be the top pick in this summer's draft.

"I've seen a couple highlights. Unbelievable." Ekman-Larsson said. "It looks so easy when he's out there. He's going to be a good player for a long time."

FORMER WHALER ALL-STAR AGAIN: Just a few days away from his 26th birthday, former Plymouth Whaler Tyler Seguin is making his fifth All-Star appearance.

Seguin won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in his rookie season before heading to the Dallas Stars in a trade on July 4, 2013.

Seguin joked that he enjoyed Media Day the most because reporters were so nice in person compared to on Twitter.

Then he got serious.

"My favorite part, I guess, is interacting with guys that I haven't before," Seguin said. "This year a lot of the new, younger players, I feel like I met pretty much everyone now. The older guys but a lot of younger players I haven't quite met and enjoy getting to interact this weekend with them."

When asked if there was anyone in particular he was looking forward to meeting, Seguin said, "Yes but anytime I say it, it's all over Twitter. He's a Twitter guy, Auston."

A local reporter asked Seguin if he had heard of the Gasparilla festival that was going on this weekend in Tampa.

"Ben Bishop told me, our goalie, ex-Tampa Bay guy," Seguin said. "I was confused so I went on Google and looked it all up. Interesting."

Having educated himself, Seguin said he came prepared.

"I have props," Seguin said. "I have an eye patch, I have a Jack Sparrow sword, I've got a hat. I won't be bringing it out."

Of course if he did wear them, Seguin could probably walk around the town incognito.

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