Glendening's grit expected to balance Wings line's finesse

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Red Wings forward Luke Glendening

Washington — Dylan Larkin, Frans Nielsen and Luke Glendening.

Who doesn’t fit?

It’s easy to say Glendening, the workmanlike forward of that trio, with Larkin and Nielsen providing the skill.

But the way Glendening provided the physical edge and straightforward approach against the Lightning, Glendening looked to be a perfect fit with his new linemates playing on a wing.

“Glendening was excellent,” said coach Jeff Blashill, who moved Glendening from center onto the wing. “He was hard on the forecheck, hard at the net and made a great play to Nielsen for the goal.”

Glendening intercepted a pass in the corner against the Lightning and centered a pass to Nielsen.

Whether he’s centering the fourth line or playing on a wing with the two offensive-minded players, Glendening doesn’t feel his job description changes.

“My role doesn’t change much,” he said. “I have to be hard at the net, be physical, and that’s what I try to do. Just go out and get pucks for those guys and let their skills shine.”

Blashill believes there’s a familiarity factor for Nielsen, who played with a similar, hard-charging forward with the Islanders in Nikolay Kulemin.

“A straight-ahead skating forward who went to the net and skated hard,” Blashill said. “That’s what (Nielsen) prefers.”

Staying in the lineup

Ryan Sproul made a case to stay in the lineup — and he apparently will — with his one goal, one assist game against Tampa Bay.

Blashill didn’t reveal lineup plans, but Sproul was skating with Niklas Kronwall the past two days, an indication Sproul would remain in the lineup after his two-point game (both on the power play).

“He has a good shoot-first mentality and looked real good on the power play,” Blashill said. “He made a strong case (to remain in the lineup).”

Sproul sat for seven consecutive games — after having played in five — before returning against Tampa Bay.

“Confidence is a big part of any hockey player’s game,” Sproul said. “If I’m confident, I can play well out there.

“It’s absolutely huge (to remain in the lineup).”

Blashill has seen steady improvement in Sproul’s defensive game since Sproul first arrived from junior to Grand Rapids, when Blashill was still Griffins’ coach.

“He’s worked hard at it, and physically he’s matured,” Blashill said. “He’s worked hard in the weight room, learned how to use his feet as a defensive weapon, and closed gaps.

“Those things have improved for sure.”

Sproul played nearly 20 minutes in Friday’s 1-0 loss to Washington (19:36) with three shots on net and one takeaway.

Ice chips

Blashill said Tomas Jurco (back) will likely go through an entire week of practice next week, then be sent to Grand Rapids for a conditioning stint.

Jurco has yet to play this season after having minor back surgery in August. He’s been skating more frequently the last couple weeks.

... Blashill, on monitoring playing time for Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg: “I’d rather manage them with days off then manage them during games. We can say we’re putting their ice times down, but if they’re our best players that night, it’s the reality right now that every game is playoff game and you play to win.”

…Washington goalie Braden Holtby made 25 saves to earn the shutout. How good has Holtby been lately?

He’s 7-1-0 in his last eight games, one shutout, a 1.61 goals-against average and .942 save percentage.

Even better, in his last six games against the Red Wings, Holtby is 5-1-0 with one shutout, an 0.99 GAA and .963 save percentage.