Detroit — Call it the return of a quality veteran defenseman, or some sort of a positive coincidence, whatever, but the Red Wings are excited to have Mike Green back.
The Wings' record is much different with Green back. So their lineup Friday in Winnipeg will look stronger with Green on the ice in game action for the first time since Dec. 11 because of a foot injury.
“That’s great; he’s a dynamic defenseman who helps us, especially offensively,” forward Gustav Nyquist said. “He can really jump into the play. He’s a great defenseman, so that’s a help for sure.”
The Wings will welcome Green back for a variety of reasons.
They’re stuck in a miserable losing streak, only having won two games in the last 14 (2-9-3) games and desperately seeking anything to turn things around, with a difficult schedule coming up before the All-Star break at the end of the month.
That’s where Green’s skill, and maybe some good fortune, comes in.
There are other variables, too, like others players returning to the Red Wings’ lineup.
But the records the Wings have with and without Green are quite stark.
With Green in the lineup, the Wings own a respectable 13-8-2 record. Without him, the Wings are 3-14-5.
Now, there are reasons, for sure.
Green missed the first nine games of the season because of a nagging virus, and along with Green, defensemen Danny DeKeyser, Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson were also unavailable for some of the October because of various injuries.
The Wings definitely felt the personnel losses on defense. And when everyone began returning close to November, the Wings record became much different, and better, with Green, personally, playing some of his best hockey as a Red Wing.
Then, Green got hurt against Los Angeles on Dec. 10 (he played sparingly the next night in Washington), and suddenly, again, players like DeKeyser, Daley and forwards Anthony Mantha and Darren Helm all were hurt around the same time, and the Wings’ record faltered.
“Both times Mike has been out, we’ve had other guys out,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “The fact we brought back Mike and whoever, and you bring back healthy guys into the lineup, it’s a huge thing.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence our record got better and Mike comes back in. We put ourselves in good position, but we have to go out and execute at a high level.”
Green, too, has heard about the disparity in records, but isn’t putting a huge amount of stock into it.
“When I came back (the first time), guys really picked up the game and it was just coincidence at the time,” Green said. “That’s the thing about this league, the experience of knowing this league, that you’re going to have your ups and downs, and right now as a team we have to get our wins here. I feel like we’re starting to play good hockey, if we can continue to do that and maintain it, in the long run we’ll give ourselves a chance to win a lot of hockey games.”
Green has only played in 23 games this season, but his 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) still rank high on the team. He also owns a team-best plus-10 plus-minus rating.
Being in and out of the lineup for chunks at a time is not the way Green wanted this season to go.
He contracted a virus in training camp, that shut him down during the preseason and most of October.
“It’s frustrating more than anything,” Green said of his season. “I’ve been able to get back in shape here quickly. (But) that’s the frustrating part, just trying to stay mentally strong through it, and get back as quick as I can.”
Looking at the offensive numbers, it’s all an indication of how productive Green has been when he’s been able to play.
“You’re adding a guy who has been a really good player in the NHL for a long time,” Blashill said. “Specifically to us, he’s been real good going into this fourth year he’s been here, (but) he was playing great hockey this year, in a lot of ways he was one of our best defenseman on a nightly basis.
“So, adding a guy who isn’t just a good player, but you can slot other guys into spots, and it just really cements your defensive core.”
Green is expected to play both ends of the back-to-back, Friday in Winnipeg and Saturday in Minnesota, with Luke Witkowski drawing out of the lineup.