Red Wings are a different team with Mike Green on the ice
While Mike Green is not what he was decade ago when he averaged more 20 goals and 68 points a season from 2007-08 to 2009-10, the 33-year-old defenseman is proving he’s still an impact player in the NHL.
The Red Wings have been a different team since Green returned from a virus that was attacking his liver, which was diagnosed during training camp. With Green out, Detroit began the season 1-6-2. But since his return the Wings have gone 12-6-2.
Now, Green’s return was not the only reason for the turnaround. Fellow veteran defensemen Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley also missed a lot of time early in the season, forcing the team to sometimes play four rookie defensemen in games. But Green still gets a large share of the credit.
After a goal and an assist and plus-2 in Thursday night’s 5-4 overtime road win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, Green has three goals, 16 points and is a team-best plus-10.
“Part of playing better is finding ways to win, and finding ways to win is producing offensively. And he produces offensively,” coach Jeff Blashill told www.mlive.com. “So not only does he make a lot of good plays, but they result in offense. I think having a guy with his stature in the league, with his ability, when you get him back in the lineup, you're just a way better team.”
Some were surprised when, after the team finally admitted it was in a rebuild, it re-signed Green – who was an unrestricted free agent – to a two-year deal worth $10.75 million last July 1.
"He's a great model for your young players,” Blashill said. “He's great for (Dennis) Cholowski to see, the way that he works every day and pays attention to detail.
“But he also helps our team win: Having him back and his ability to move the puck, his ability to produce offense.”
Green’s teammates agree.
“He's a dynamic player and can push the play from the back end. We don't have too many of those guys,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We’re fortunate that he’s playing on our team, and he’s playing really well now, not just pushing the pace, but creating offense, making plays.”
Adds Dylan Larkin: “He controls the pace of play, and he’s smooth back there. Having a guy like that back there is huge.”
Big win in Toronto
Larkin’s goal with 2:12 left in overtime gave Detroit a 5-4 win over Toronto at the Scotiabank Arena after the Red Wings couldn’t hold a 4-1 lead in the third period.
“It feels good," Larkin told NHL.com. “Forty minutes we were the better team. We played the way we wanted to come out and play – possessing the puck and capitalizing on our chances and moving the puck around. All four lines were generating and doing a good job against their big guys.
“It was 20 minutes where we took our foot off the gas and let their best players come in waves. We could feel it when that happened.”
Larkin also had an assist; Gustav Nyquist had a goal and two assists, and Luke Glendening and Ericsson also scored. Jonathan Bernier made 27 saves in the win against one of his former teams.
Detroit blocked 30 shots in the game.
“Sacrifice, and that’s the only way you really win,” Blashill said. “Nothing says sacrifice more than blocked shots.”
The Wings were without Anthony Mantha (broken hand), defenseman Danny DeKeyser (hand), Tyler Bertuzzi (suspension), and defenseman Trevor Daley (lower body).
Bertuzzi will return from his two-game suspension – for “unsportsmanlike conduct and roughing” against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night – when the Red Wings host the New York Islanders at Little Caesars Arena at 7 p.m. Saturday night.
DeKeyser joins Mantha in missing four to six weeks after he hurt his hand blocking a shot by Steven Stamkos in the 6-5 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday night.
Blashill said Daley is at least several days away from returning.
Zadina headed for World Juniors
Filip Zadina, the Red Wings’ top draft pick in June’s NHL draft, will play for the Czech Republic in the World Junior Championship, which will be held Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.
Zadina,19 and Detroit’s sixth overall pick, has seven goals and 15 points in 23 games with Grand Rapids in the American Hockey League.