Glendening working to play bigger part for Red Wings

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Luke Glendening is bigger and looks a bit quicker, and accomplishing both in the space of an offseason does not come easy.

The ultimate lunch-bucket player, undrafted in the NHL, not recruited in college and now building a career as an everyday player for the Red Wings in their traditional grinder, penalty killer niche — Glendening is looking to boost his game, yet again.

At 26, there is still room for growth in his profession.

"You've got to try to get better every year, whether that's your skating or your skills or whatever," Glendening said. "And I put on a little bit of weight this year, so I was trying to make sure I could stay fast."

He spent a lot of time at the former Compuware Arena, now named the USA Hockey Arena, with the arrival of the National Team Development Program.

"I worked with Kim Muir this summer on my skating, and she did a great job," Glendening said. "She was awesome."

Muir, once a competitive figure skater, has taught power skating for 21 years and more than 100 of her students are in the NHL or several minor leagues. She teaches techniques intended to increase speed, balance and coordination.

"It's a lot," Glendening said of the comprehensive training. "I left every day thinking I was the worst skater in the world.

"But, you know, you get on the ice next day and you feel a little better.

"It's technique, working on your edges, all that."

Glendening has sought to improve his skating since landing on the roster two years ago. It was an early suggestion from the coaches. But this summer, he undertook a significant new initiative, seeking more improvement.

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His coach says he has observed the results.

"I think he's skating real well, you could see it right away," said Jeff Blashill, who has had an intimate view of Glendening's development in Grand Rapids and Detroit. "He's skating better."

While the lines are not set, and often subject to change at a moment's notice — at least under Mike Babcock and Scotty Bowman, while Blashill's tendencies in that regard are yet to be established — Glendening's improved skating fits his role with Johan Franzen and Riley Sheahan.

"Yeah, obviously I don't know what will happen, yet," he said. "But if I can add an element of speed to that line and get on the forecheck and get those guys the puck, I think we have a chance for success.

"But, like I said, I don't know that's going to happen yet, so we'll see."

Blashill said he likes the idea of the line and is watching their performance evolve.

"We're kind of experimenting with it as a potential line. Obviously, lots could change, health, how well guys play," he said.

"I think it should be a real good line, but we'll have to continue to evaluate."

Franzen said he likes the situation, describing himself and Sheahan as "big bulls" and identifying the same role Glendening mentioned.

"Glennie can get some pucks for us, and Sheahan has great hands and great hockey sense," Franzen said. "So, it can be good."

It was a summer of work for Glendening, but he said he did find some time away from the game. Growing up near Grand Rapids, Lake Michigan has been a big attraction.

"I went out fishing over on the west side," he said. "But for the most part I was around Birmingham and working out and skating."

Glendening paused for an interview Sunday before serving as grand marshal for the 11th annual Down Syndrome Support Team's Buddy Walk, in Gallup Park.

He arrived with his Great Dane, Lucy, whose disposition is as sweet as her body is big.

Each of the Wings has a community initiative, and his is called Gametime with Glendening.

"I just like to meet these kids and their families," he said. "I've had a kid and their family at all the home games, and then I'm able to meet them after the game.

"It's been a blast.

"All the guys on our team are involved in something and this is where my passion is. This walk is raising awareness today for kid's with Down Syndrome, and I think it's awesome."

Glendening said he is excited about the season, like many of the Red Wings.

"We're excited, you know; the guys are. I think there's a new energy in the room and that's exciting.

"And the new players that we got and the new coach, I think it's good."