Hard work makes Glendening a Datsyuk fave

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Luke Glendening

Detroit – When the Red Wings needed to reconfigure lines with Darren Helm getting hurt almost two weeks ago, Pavel Datsyuk went to coach Mike Babcock and asked for Luke Glendening.

Babcock wasn't entirely surprised.

"Pavel wanted someone to work," Babcock said. "He believes that he can do stuff with the puck, he wants to have the puck, and he wants guys to help him.

"It's no different that (Henrik) Zetterberg wants (Justin) Abdelkader. They want those guys because they work and get the puck back and create turnovers. They compete every night and they can count on them.

"Sometimes we get confused with what skill is. We think there should be all dipsy-doodlers on one line. If you ask the guys themselves, that's not what they want."

Glendening hasn't looked out of place on a line with Datsyuk and Tomas Tatar, doing his signature grunt work and filling the role Helm had.

"Obviously, it's fun to play with those guys," said Glendening (East Grand Rapids / Michigan), who made the organization after a tryout. "Obviously, they're a little past my skill, but it's fun to play on a line with them and get the puck for them.

"I was wishing I'd get a magical set of hands when I started playing with those guys but that didn't happen, so I'm just doing the little things like keeping pucks in and giving them an opportunity to have (scoring) chances."

Playing with a creative player such as Datsyuk makes work easier for Glendening.

"He's one of the best players in the world," Glendening said. "To be on the ice with him is fun, and he makes the game easy and slows it down. I just try to stay out of his way."

But Glendening has seen stark improvement in his own offensive game. He already has nine goals this season, after scoring once last season.

"Last year at this time everybody was asking me if I was ever going to score a goal in the NHL and I was wondering the same thing," Glendening said. "It's definitely nice to put a few in."

Babcock isn't surprised by Glendening's development.

"Glennie came to our team, walked on, and has made us better every day," Babcock said. "He's an ultra-competitive person and he draws other people to battle. He's been an important player for our organization.

"Anybody who works that hard, is that competitive, and trains so hard, and loves it so much, will improve his skill set and he'll score and be an important player."

Players such as Glendening, Helm and Abdelkader may arrive pegged as fourth-line players, or begin their NHL careers that way, but ultimately graduate to larger roles.

"It's called growth and development," Babcock said. "They're kids when they arrive, and they have to get better. So if you continue to develop them and they're hard-working people, they'll get better."

Pay attention

The Red Wings faced a second consecutive non-playoff team Thursday in Columbus and play another Saturday (Philadelphia) that's falling out of the playoff picture.

Yet for the Red Wings, these are crucial points needed to at least maintain their playoff seeding.

But it's difficult, sometimes, not to overlook a struggling team.

"We (coaching staff) come in here and try to make everyone look like the '68 Montreal Canadiens," Babcock said. "It doesn't matter what their record is. But they don't believe us, so the bottom line is we know we have to get better.

"We aren't, I would say, firing on all cylinders right now like we were two weeks ago. It's time to get our game back."

Ice chips

Darren Helm (oblique strain) took part in Thursday's morning skate but was to miss his fifth consecutive game. Helm isn't sure about this weekend's back-to-back games either.

"It's getting better each day but we're taking it a day at a time," Helm said. "There's always a possibility (of this weekend) but I don't know if there's a great likelihood."

… Babcock made no changes to the lineup, meaning Tomas Jurco remained in place of Stephen Weiss at the one forward spot that's been fluid.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tkulfan