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Notes: Mike Green plays it cool

Veteran defenseman embraces leadership role quietly

by Arthur J. Regner @arthurjregner /

DETROIT - Before he signed as a free agent with the Red Wings on July 1, 2015, defenseman Mike Green had been on the Wings' radar for quite some time.

Detroit had been looking for an offensive-minded defenseman and Green was the player that Red Wings management had tabbed. Yet, despite the Wings' attempts to acquire Green from Washington, the Capitals and Wings could never come to a satisfying deal.

Green stayed in Washington and the Wings waited until he became available in free agency.

"I didn't know too much about that, to be honest with you," Green said when asked if he was aware the Wings coveted him for a long time. "It wasn't until I got here that I heard things. I'm here and I'm happy to be here so that's all that matters."

As happy as he is to be with the Red Wings, the transition from Washington, where he played 10 years, to Detroit was a bit difficult. But part of what made it a challenge was Green had to modify his game because he was becoming older.

In Washington, he was an offensive juggernaut and a Norris Trophy finalist.

"I've been learning every year. Obviously, I'm a different player than when I was really young," Green said. "I think when I was young, I was kind of all offensive-minded, I didn't play too much defense, to be honest.

"Now I've tried to find a balance between the two. I think at times it's hurt maybe the offensive numbers but I think the well-balanced game is a lot better."

He has also become a leader in the locker room and one player that he has helped guide along is forward Martin Frk, especially on finding the open spot to shoot from on the power play.

"I think it comes over time (being a leader) with experience really," Green said "I have been in a lot of situations and have a lot of experience, so I know kind of what to expect.

"With Frky, I've played with Ovi (Alex Ovechkin) where that same shot is there, so I figured I'd help the kid out and make sure he's in the right spot so I can get him the puck."

Frk appreciates that Green has taken time to give him a few pointers along the way.

"Green is trying to help me out a lot to find a spot on the ice. He's telling me, 'I will always pass it to you in this spot, you hang there,'" Frk said. "So, it's a little bit different than Grand Rapids where the guys always knew where I was going to be.

"Now, I've got to learn a little bit different position, but the guys are great, they can help you right away; I can figure out very quickly."

While Green was trying to find his comfort level with the Red Wings, Detroit coach Jeff Blashill was also experiencing a learning curve on how to handle his veteran defenseman.

"I thought Mike last year, his second year, was an excellent year," Blashill said. "You want to talk about every day, he comes to work every day. He's an absolute pro. I can't say enough things about his competitiveness, about his care level.

"He's gotten better over the years defensively. I think the one thing we've tried to concentrate with him is to skate forward defensively as much as possible.

"So, get up, skate, lateral gap, and end up where you're not necessarily backing up, you're using your great skating ability to close gaps as quick as you can.

"I think it's made him a much better defender. But he also has to attack. One thing I probably grew with him last year too was those types of players at times, you got to let them attack. And he's done a good job of managing his game."

Blashill has also witnessed Green stepping it up as a leader, and isn't surprised he has tried to help Frk on the power play.

"That's also through his experiences," Blashill said. "He had one of the best shooters of all time in Ovechkin sitting over there and he knows what Ovechkin did to get open, so he can help Marty learn that maybe it doesn't take lots of movement, lots of times you're just standing there, and you be ready to one-time pucks, my job is to get you the puck and if they overcompensate, I'll shoot it. That can make the power play lethal because obviously, Mike Green's got a heck of a shot, too."

Green may have sacrificed his offensive game to become a more complete player, but he is still a threat offensively.

In Thursday's season opener, he assisted on all four Red Wings goals, and last year in the Wings' final home opener at Joe Louis Arena, he recorded his first career hat trick against Ottawa. When he was told he could be nicknamed "Mr. Home Opener," Green quickly responded.

"Let's not make that a thing. Then there's going to be pressure," he said. "I think everybody was just excited to get going, including myself. I was just lucky enough, to be honest."

BLASHILL WANTS FANS IN THEIR SEATS: Without exception, the reviews of Little Caesars Arena have been extremely positive. Blashill is a huge admirer of Detroit's new digs, but if he has one issue with the new barn, it's that the fans have so much to do and see, the hockey game may get temporarily lost in all the excitement.

"That's one of the challenges of a great building with so much to offer, especially a new building where they're checking things out. We need them in the stands," Blashill said. "I thought there were moments where it was real full and moments where it wasn't.

"We need them in the stands as much as possible. It's a loud building so it's going to be a huge home ice advantage when they're in the stands."

KRONWALL OUT AGAIN: Based on Friday's practice, it appears the Wings will go with the same lineup in Ottawa on Saturday that started the home opener Thursday against Minnesota. Jimmy Howard will start in goal and if there was going to be a change it would be on the blueline if Niklas Kronwall was deemed healthy enough to play.

However, Kronwall didn't skate with the Wings at practice on Friday, instead skating by himself afterward.

"He skated on his own today," Blashill said. "He's day to day right now but he won't be in tomorrow night."

GLENDENING'S BAD FEELING: Earlier in the week, Justin Abdelkader, a proud MSU Spartan, revealed that teammate Luke Glendening, who was captain of Michigan's hockey team for two years, was leaning towards Michigan State in Saturday's football clash between the state's two Big Ten teams.

"That's putting me on the spot there. I'm hoping Michigan wins for sure," Glendening said when told Abdelkader threw him under the bus. "I hope they don't have a letdown week after the bye and I'm sure the coach will have them ready."

When he was pressed if he really believed Michigan State would win the game, Glendening was evasive.

"We'll see what happens, I don't know, there's been so many years that one team is way up and one team is way down, we'll see happens this year," Glendening said. "I'm hoping they'll win, I'll just put it that way."

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