Wings excited about what Mike Green's return can mean to lineup

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Defenseman Mike Green

Detroit — One of the most anxious players Friday in the Red Wings’ dressing room was defenseman Mike Green.

Here it was in late October — and Green was making his regular-season debut against the Winnipeg Jets.

Green contracted a virus during training camp that knocked him off the ice for the remainder of the exhibition season and start of the regular season.

“It was tough,” said Green, who began skating gradually over the last couple weeks. “You want to push but you couldn’t without kind of draining yourself. It’s a matter of finding balance, where you could stay on the ice and get through some exhaustion.

“We did a good job with the trainers and doctors. I’m feeling good now and getting ready to get back in.”

Green got through Tuesday’s rugged practice — a night after a lackluster loss to Carolina — which was a good indication he was ready to return to game action.

Still, not having played a game yet, Green was cautious to say he’s completely back conditioning-wise.

“You never know if you’re 100 percent until you get in the game,” Green said. “I won’t be able to tell until the first period. I feel as good as I can, getting out there.”

What has hurt Green as much as anything physically is not being able to play during the Red Wings' difficult start this season.

With four veteran defensemen out of the lineup, the young defensemen who filled in did an adequate job until the rest of the NHL caught up with them.

It’s a younger roster overall, and the Red Wings have had difficult nights because of it.

More: New Red Wing Jacob de la Rose eager for fresh start with new team

More: 'It makes sense': Ilitch-led TV network would deepen family’s imprint

“It’s a little bit of transition here, especially on the defensive end,” Green said. “It’s not easy to play in this league, and they’ve been thrown into this role going against top lines and it’s difficult defensively.

“If we can have that balance with young players with an older guy, and sort of balance it, we can hopefully elevate the group on the back end, at least.”

Coach Jeff Blashill was pleased with being able to add Green’s name to the lineup.

Just getting another veteran defenseman in the lineup — the lone one still out is Danny DeKeyser (hand) — can only strengthen the Red Wings.

“Whether it’s Green or (Trevor) Daley or (Jonathan) Ericsson, or DeKeyser, those are defensemen in the NHL,” Blashill said. “They’re proven top-six, on a number of teams top-four, and they’re just real good players. You miss their ability, No. 1, and their experience.

“With Greener, specifically, he’s a guy who pushes the puck out of your end. He’s a good breakout guy because of his skating and poise, and he’s a guy who can add offense and we haven’t scored enough on our chances. We’ve created chances and haven’t scored.

“He’s a guy who can score.”

Game action

Friday’s game was the first since Monday’s debacle when the Wings were out-worked by Carolina, which led to a difficult practice the next day.

“Certainly Tuesday’s practice was real hard with a lot of compete stuff,” Blashill said. “Our compete level has to be excellent and our work ethic has to be excellent to give ourselves an opportunity to win a hockey game.

“A lot of nights it has been.”

Blashill has preached all season that it’s vital for the Red Wings to have a short memory, and come in to work the next day and get better.

He was hopeful that was done this week.

“We’ve tried to get better every single day and hopefully we’re all better as a team than we were Monday,” Blashill said.

Ice chips

Winnipeg has four Detroit-area players on its roster: forwards Kyle Connor (Shelby Township) and Andrew Copp (Ann Arbor), goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (Commerce Township) and defenseman Jacob Trouba (Rochester).

Blashill coached Connor, Hellebuyck and Trouba on world championship teams the past two seasons.

“They’re all great representatives of Michigan and what great hockey we have here in the state,” Blashill said.

... Martin Frk returned to the lineup Friday while Michael Rasmussen was a healthy scratch among the forwards.

Twitter: @tkulfan