DETROIT – Mike Green was happy in Washington, and why wouldn’t he be?
It was there in the nation’s capital, where the 29-year-old evolved into one of the top offensive defensemen in the league over the past decade.
But apparently, even the best players can benefit by moving their ladder to a different part of the wall.
“I never thought that I needed change,” the right-handed shooting Green said following the Red Wings’ morning skate Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. “It just presented itself and I wasn’t scared of it.”
On the first day of the NHL’s free-agency period last July, Green jumped at the opportunity to move his ladder, leaving the only NHL team he’s ever played for and signing a three-year contract with the Wings.
Tonight, for the first time in his pro career, Green will don a different jersey when the Red Wings host the Chicago Blackhawks in a preseason game at The Joe.
The two Original Six rivals faced off in Chicago on Tuesday. The Blackhawks posted a 5-4 overtime win.
After spending five days getting to know the players, coaches and staff at training camp in Traverse City, Green is anxious to get going, playing some games.
“It’s been great,” Green said. “I didn’t know what to expect. This is the first (new) team I’ve come on since coming into pro hockey. There was a lot of change, but the guys have welcomed me well and I feel very comfortable in the dressing room.
“(I’ve) got a little bit more to learn as far as systematic stuff, but that will come with the next week or so playing a couple of games.”
It’s early, but Green said he’s thrilled with how well his new partnership with defenseman Danny DeKeyser is going.
“He skates so well and moves the puck so well that it’s very easy to read off of him,” Green said. “I feel like we’ve been in camp for a short period of time and we’re able to unite and understand each other. I think it’s going to take some time to fine tune our game but I’m extremely excited to play with him.”
Green, obviously, isn’t the only new addition to the Wings family. Jeff Blashill begins his first season as the franchise’s new head coach, and there’s center Brad Richards, who is playing for this third Original Six team in three seasons. So there’s plenty of new personnel that the focus doesn’t always have to be on Green.
However, the hope is that Green can come in and immediately produce offense from the blue line, something the Red Wings haven’t had since right-handed shooting Brian Rafalski retired after the 2010-11 season.
“It’s one thing to be an offensive defenseman and have good offensive skill, he’s got elite offensive skill,” Blashill said. “I think more importantly than the right shot is the skill set he brings. It’s going to be fun to watch. We hope him and Danny DeKeyser can create good chemistry. We hope that they can go back and break pucks out and not spend a lot of time in the defensive zone. Both are very capable defenders. We expect them to defend when they’re in those spots, we want to be out of the zone as fast as we can. We think those guys can do it.”
Green was a prolific power-play producer for the Capitals, seemingly always able to find an open Alex Ovechkin for a one-timer in the opposite face-off circle.
Green led the Capitals’ defensemen in power-play scoring in four of the past seven seasons, and he’s among the franchise’s all-time leading D-men, ranking second in career power-play goals (52) and fourth in power-play points (163).
Only six other NHL blue liners – Zdeno Chara, Brian Campbell, Mark Streit, Dan Boyle, Shea Weber and Duncan Keith – produced more points than Green over the last nine seasons.
Blashill decided well before training camp that he would try pairing DeKeyser and Green together. The coach said it boiled down to their complimentary styles, which he hopes benefits the 25-year-old DeKeyser.
“They both got real good poise,” Blashill said. “I think Danny is an underrated player nationally. I think he doesn’t get the respect he probably deserves. If he is put in situations where there’s break downs he can make up for a lot of different players’ mistakes. He has the ability to make a ton of defensive plays with his stick, breaking up two on ones, things like that. He’s got great recoverability. I think Danny just ultimately is an elite player and I think putting him with Green puts two elite players together.”
WINGS-HAWKS 2.0: The Wings and Blackhawks conclude a home-and-home preseason series tonight at JLA. The Wings will march out 20 different players.
Here are the line combinations and defensive pairings:
Justin Abdelkader—Henrik Zetterberg—Gustav Nyquist
Tomas Jurco—Brad Richards—Tomas Tatar
Eric Tangradi—Tomas Nosek—Mitch Callahan
Jeff Hoggan—Marc-Louis Aubry—Martin Frk
Niklas Kronwall—Jonathan Ericsson
Danny DeKeyser—Mike Green
Kyle Quincey—Jakub Kindl
FAST OT: By moving overtime periods to a 3-on-3 format, the league was hoping to cut down on the number of games decided by shootout. If the first three days of the exhibition season is an indication, shootouts could be a thing of the past.
“I don’t know if 3 on 3 is going to last too long in the league,” said Blashill, referring to the quick OT outcomes so far.
The Red Wings scored three goals in the third period Tuesday to force sudden-death overtime at the United Center. The Blackhawks’ Trevor Daley scored at 1:40 of the extra five-minute session.
|Teemu Pulkkinen (left) and Anthony Mantha celebrated a third-period goal Tuesday in Chicago. Mantha scored in the second period for the Red Wings. (Photo by Getty Images) |
“We lost the (opening) draw and we didn’t touch the puck for 40 seconds, we spent the whole time in our end,” Blashill said. “We were able to come up with a turnover and then we had the puck for about a minute, had an unreal opportunity in front, didn’t score, and then they go down two on one and score."
This month, 11 of 28 preseason games have gone to overtime, ending on average in 2:24. Only on game, Pittsburgh at Columbus, needed to go to a shootout.
“I think it’s extremely exciting, I think it’s going to end games before the shootout, I think it’s something we’re going to have to be good at because there’s going to be lots of points there for grabs.”
GOAL SCORERS SCORE: Anthony Mantha registered his first career preseason goal Tuesday in the second period.
It was good to see the former CHL player of the year, who once led Val-d’Or with back-to-back 50-plus goal seasons, crank up the offense with a goal from the slot in Chicago.
“Anthony’s a scorer and he has to score,” Blashill said. “Ultimately, to be a real good player in this league he’s going to have to be an elite scorer. He’s going to have to do other things right to get himself to those spots and he seems to be doing those things.
“I also think confidence is a huge thing and I can see him gaining confidence. Even in that game last night, the first half, one the game was tough for us, but I thought our young guys started getting confidence as the game went along.”