Detroit — You have to believe New Jersey Devils defenseman Mirco Mueller won’t do that again.

Thursday, after an exchange to the side of the net, Mueller and Red Wings forward Luke Glendening got into a tussle that escalated quickly and ended rather briskly, too.

But not before Glendening pummeled Mueller with several punches that sent him tumbling to the ice.

“Glenny’s a strong, strong man,” said forward Justin Abdelkader, a Glendening linemate. “He played running back in high school (at East Grand Rapids) and he has that low center of gravity. He just drives through people.

“I don’t know if Mueller was ready for that.”

The quick scuffle occurred toward the end of the second period and appeared to be the spark the Wings needed heading into the third period.

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In a start to this season where positives have only lately begun to surface, Glendening has been one from the opening night.

Glendening has five points (one goal, four assists) in 13 games, with a team best plus-3 rating and a 56.7 percent face-off percentage. He's also continuing to be a key penalty killer and defensive forward.

“I’d say it’s for two seasons,” coach Jeff Blashill said of Glendening’s impressive play. “Three seasons ago he had a down year. He really refocused himself going into last season and he’s been a physical force on a consistent basis, probably our most physical force on a consistent basis for two years.”

Blashill feels the work Glendening has put in during the last two summers have paid off.

“He’s worked on his skill set and gotten better,” Blashill said. “One thing Luke can do, he’s a real athlete and he works extremely hard, so through the course of the summer he’s worked at his skill set and gotten better at those areas.

“He just gives you so many dimensions. He wins face-offs, he’s an excellent, excellent defensive player. He brings that physicality. He’s a net-presence guy. You put him in a lot of different roles and he does a good job.

“He’s a winner, and he’s the type of player you win with.”

Veteran presence

When the Red Wings were playing four young defensemen at the beginning of the season due to injuries to Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green, the impact was predictable.

Though youngsters Dennis Cholowski (who has been very good from the start), Filip Hronek, Joe Hicketts and Libor Sulak fought hard, they were largely not ready for the NHL collectively.

Having the veterans back — although Ericsson is out of the lineup again — has helped the Wings get back on a winning track.

“Especially with the caliber of the defense back in the lineup, those are real defensemen in the league,” Blashill said. “That helps you anytime your full (lineup), the very best group is available to you.

“You have your best chance to be a better team.”

Ice chips

Young forward Michael Rasmussen has goals in his last two games and his overall game has picked up.

“You noticed him out there making plays, being strong with the puck,” Kronwall said of the New Jersey game. “He came up with a big goal again. He’s been great.”

... Ericsson (lower body) injured himself lifting weights after Thursday’s victory. He’ll be out about a week.

…Heading into Saturday’s game, Dylan Larkin had three straight multi-point games for the first time in his career.

Twitter: @tkulfan