DETROIT – Growing up in the charming western Michigan community of East Grand Rapids – which is equal distance to Detroit as it is Chicago – Luke Glendening’s allegiances were to the Red Wings, not the Blackhawks.
“I was a huge Wings’ fan and always hated the Hawks,” the Red Wings’ rookie center said. “It’s pretty funny to be in this locker room and sitting in the same place where so many greats that I grew up watching were sitting and playing against a team that I grew up hating.”
Glendening gets his first up-close look at his love/hate relationship with the Original Six rivalry when he plays against the Blackhawks for the first time in his career tonight at Joe Louis Arena.
“Watching them when I was a kid, it’s pretty cool to experience this game, and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Glendening said. “They’re a great team and we’re going to have to play our best game to give ourselves a chance.”
The Red Wings will have their hands full tonight against the team with the second-best record in the league. The Blackhawks also lead the league with 184 goals scored and own one of the best road records, picking up points in each of the last five games away from the United Center.
The Blackhawks are definitely on a roll but the short-handed Wings, who are still without four of their top eight scorers, can’t get caught up in the hype, so the younger players like Glendening must maintain their composure, he said, especially, if he’s going to contribute offensively.
“There’s going to be a lot of emotions, obviously … especially for me, I’d love to get my first goal, there are a lot of things that I would love to do,” said Glendening, who has played in more games with the Wings than he has with the club’s minor-league team in Grand Rapids this season.
“I have to keep it simple and play my game, and if that comes, it comes,” Glendening said. “I try to bring a physical element and I try to get under the other team’s skin if I can. I try to do the best that I can with that and we’ll see where that takes me.”
Fellow rookie Tomas Jurco, who will also make his series debut against the Blackhawks tonight, knows the importance of the longstanding rivalry between these two organizations and their fan bases.
“I know it’s going to be a great game,” said Jurco, who has two goals in 10 NHL games. “They’re a great team, obviously, they have really good forwards. I know these two teams are big rivals so it’s going to be good and it’s going to be fun and I’m looking forward to it.”
Right Wing - DET
Goals: 2 | Assists: 1 | Pts: 3
Shots: 21 | +/-: -2
Though Jurco will play alongside Chicago’s Marian Hossa
at the Sochi Olympics in a few weeks, the Wings’ rookie is excited to play against his boyhood idol for the first time.
“I’ve met him a few times back home and talked to him a bit,” said Jurco, of his soon-to-be Slovakian teammate. “He’s a great hockey player and he’s been my idol since I was younger and he’s still one of my favorite players. So it’s going to be pretty special for me to play against him.”
And how does the 21-year-old forward plan to play against Hossa and the Blackhawks?
“We just have to be physical because they have some skilled guys and we have to be fast," Jurco said. "We have to shoot more pucks for sure and put more pucks on net with a lot of traffic in front. If we do that I think we have a good chance to win.”
RIVALRY NIGHT: Tonight is the 726th all-time game, and first since last spring’s thrilling playoff series, between the Red Wings and Blackhawks. Yet, while the rivalry is nearly a century old, the coaches offered wildly different views Wednesday morning.
For Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, the Midwest rivalry is alive and well.
“It certainly is. The way that playoff series went and the number of battles these two teams have had over the years and the way the fans are with both teams, very passionate for their home team, you tend to get both teams represented in either team’s buildings,” Quenneville said. “Even though it’s one game in each building a year, I think it will be instantly recaptured – the intensity, the animosity and the rivalry. It’s always fun to come back here and we know how important the game is for both teams.”
But with the Red Wings’ recent struggles, coach Mike Babcock believes the rivalry is headed for life-support if things don’t turn around soon.
“Rivalry is when two teams really get after one another. I thought we did last year in the playoffs,” Babcock said. “We haven’t been a good enough team this year to consider this a rivalry type game, but in the past we know what that is and we’ve had a good run with them.
“We used to be where they are and now they are where we were.”
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