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Foster: Glendening exemplifies Red Wings' work ethic

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Detroit — It's refreshing to go from the bravado of the NBA to the aw shucks just happy to be here attitude of the NHL.

A perfect example of that comes from Red Wings center Luke Glendening, who doesn't even believe he has enough talent to be on the roster.

"When you look around, my skill set doesn't match up to guys in this room," he said. "You just have to have a competitive work ethic that is unfailing and you see where you go."

But here is the reality about Glendening.

He has been as much of a difference-maker as anybody on the roster during the series against the Lightning. In fact, if not for Glendening, the Red Wings might not be alive.

Glendening is is small and soft-spoken off the ice, but plays bigger on the ice.

His job is simple. He drives the center of the ice and brings energy to the building. And, he loves to get under the skin of talented players like Lightning center Tyler Johnson.

But Glendening isn't doing it alone.

The new "Grind Line" of Glendening, Brendan Smith and Landon Ferraro has the Lightning shaking their heads in frustration. The line is plus-5, while Tampa Bay's line of Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat entered Monday's game plus-3.

Defensive focus

Here's further proof of what makes Glendening a difference-maker.

When he missed the final seven minutes of Game 4 with a spliced thumb, Johnson scored twice, including the overtime winner.

But with a healthy Glendening in Game 5, Johnson disappeared.

"If I set my marks offensively there wouldn't be much to look at," Glendening said. "I try to focus on (defense). I try to play physical and I try to play fast. But you just do your best."

What Glendening is doing is short of amazing. On a team filled with playmakers like goaltender Petr Mrazek, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, Glendening has carved out his own slice of life with his performance.

"He has a lot of talent," Smith said. "He might not have the stick moves of Datsyuk or score as many goals as Zetterberg, but the talent he brings is one that helps our team, and that is definitely NHL level."

Grind time

Glendening not only pushes opponents, but teammates, too.

It's another reason he belongs in the NHL.

"He has a compete level that is every shift and every game," Smith said. "You know what you are going to get from him. That is great for our line and great for our team."

Glendening used to watch the original "Grind Line" of Kris Draper, Joe Kocur and Kirk Maltby, when he was growing up in Grand Rapids.

He didn't study them.

He didn't expect to be compared to them.

He simply enjoyed the show.

"When you are a kid you are watching because you love the game," Glendening said. "I loved how hard they worked, how hard they competed and how they showed up for big games.

"I think I have a long way to go to be compared to anyone on that line but it is something to aspire to for sure."