Detroit — Maybe lost, just a bit, amid the celebration Saturday of winning the regular season opener in Nashville was Luke Glendending’s contribution.
Making plays big and small, Glendening was a huge factor at both ends of the rink.
The most important one was scoring the winner in the third period, a blast off a 2-on-1 rush that blew past goalie Juuse Saros and broke a 3-3 tie.
In the final minute, Glendening and Tyler Bertuzzi rattled Predators defenders while Nashville was protecting an empty net, and Glendening drew an assist on Bertuzzi’s clinching goal.
Glendening added two hits, was credited with a block (though he probably should have been credited with a few more) and generally was one of the Wings’ best forwards along with the dominant first line of Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha.
“Glennie is just a winner,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “At different times during my time with him, I’ve tried to not play him as much and he just always forces me to play him more.
“Whether it was here, in Grand Rapids, at the world championships, he’s just a winner of a player. He does all those things that at the end of the day account to winning.”
Blashill wasn’t surprised by Glendening’s goal, though it was a type of goal a grinder of a player like Glendening isn’t supposed to score.
“He’s worked extremely hard at becoming a better goal scorer,” Blashill said. “Glennie has worked hard on his shot over a number of summers, and the goal he scored, on the 2-on-1, that’s indicative of the work he’s put in.”
Blashill named Glendening an alternate captain during training camp, a sign of the center's impact in the locker room.
Players continually praise, and are in awe, of Glendening’s work ethic, approach to the game, and his willingness to do what it takes to win a hockey game.
And Saturday, in Game 1 of an 82 game schedule, Glendening sacrificed his body as much as anyone.
“It gives me chills thinking about it,” said Dylan Larkin of Glendening’s impact. “He blocks everything, he wins faceoffs, scored the game-winning goal.
“He does everything, and we have guys like that all around this room.”
Healthy and able
Exactly a year ago, with the Wings’ opening their season, they were without defensemen Mike Green, Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson and Danny DeKeyser, which devastated a team already thin depth at the position, forcing young players into slots they weren’t ready to play.
Fast forward to this season, where DeKeyser, Green and Daley are all healthy and stabilizing the Wings’ defense.
Green and Daley, in particular, went through difficult seasons, each missing about half the schedule, dealing with various injuries.
“Greener has been a part of this team since he came over,” Blashill said. “He’s done an excellent job, he was great (Saturday in Nashville, while playing almost 23 minutes).
“He’s an elite talent. When you look at some of the things he’s done in this league, he continues to work hard at his game and train hard.”
If there was one thing that could be a positive in terms of Daley missing so much playing time — he had a broken foot, which forced him out the second half of the season — it was the ability to re-energize himself.
“He’s refreshed this year, he’s told me that,” Blashill said. “He’s in a good spot.”
Blashill said Andreas Athanasiou (lower body) would be a game-time decision Sunday. Athanasiou missed Saturday’s game, despite taking the morning skate. The Wings didn’t skate Sunday morning.
… Bertuzzi’s contributions can get lost, sometimes, while playing with offensive wizards like Larkin and Mantha. But Bertuzzi’s linemates know how important he is, and what he provides. “He’s amazing,” Mantha said. “ He brings the chemistry together. He likes to joke around, he keeps us nice and smooth.”
… As for Mantha, he said his confidence is about the same as it was during Mantha’s final year in junior hockey — when he scored 81 goals in 81 games.
“Close, or same as my last year in juniors,” Mantha said. “Since then, it’s never been as close.”