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Glendening Envisioning A Pivotal Role As Things Heat Up At World Championships

There were 285 American-born players that skated in at least one National Hockey League game this season, the highest total ever. This month, 24 players are taking part in the 2019 IIHF Men’s World’s Championship with the U.S. Men’s National Team, with space for one more.

 

It’s a hard team to crack as more talented players continue to fill the talent pool. Detroit Red Wings forward Luke Glendening is one of the lucky ones taking part in spring’s premier international tournament.

 

It’s his first time representing the U.S. in an international event, throwing the USA crest over his chest after receiving the invitational call from general manager Chris Drury.

 

“It’s really an honor. It’s such a great feeling to represent your country, especially now for my first time as an older guy,” the recently turned 30-year-old said.

 

There are a few familiar faces among the U.S. contingent for Glendening. There’s Detroit’s franchise cornerstone Dylan Larkin as well as head coach Jeff Blashill, in his third year at the helm for the Americans.

 

“Glenny is a total winner,” Blash said. “He goes out every shift and wins his shift. He blocks shots, wins pucks, creates forecheck pressure and goes to the net hard. He’s just that type of winning hockey player.”

 

With minimal international experience and the group’s abbreviated training schedule leading into the tournament, Glendening is taking advantage of his familiarity of playing with Larkin and hearing Blashill’s voice barking out the in-game adjustments.

 

“It’s definitely nice to have that prior relationship with him and be familiar with his systems and what he expects from us,” Glendening said. “I’m definitely not the most skilled guy on the team, but he knows that he can depend on me to help the team however I can and to win faceoffs.”

Glendening had a career-high 23 points this season for his hometown Red Wings.Glendening had a career-high 23 points this season for his hometown Red Wings.

This year concluded Glendening’s sixth full season in Detroit, overlapping with Blashill through four of them. Despite not being among the more notable Red Wings’ forwards, he plays an important role for the rebuilding Red Wings, from winning defensive zone faceoffs to his prowess on the penalty kill. He also notched a career-high 23 points in 78 games. 

 

Through four games in Kovice, Slovakia, Glendening has tallied a pair of assists, but his most sizable contributions aren’t seen on the scoresheet, aside from hits, blocked shots, and containing opponents when down a man.

 

“He wins lots of face offs, he’s one of the better face off guys in the National Hockey League and he’s an excellent penalty killer,” Blashill said. “He’s one of the few guys I’ve been around that’s both hard and smart. He’s able to bring both of that to the table. I think he’s an asset to any team and he’s been an asset to this team.”

 

The U.S. has been a disciplined team so far, only taking five penalties through four games. On the flip side, the penalty killing unit hasn’t found much of a groove, especially when it comes to the differences between mitigating chances on the bigger international ice.

 

“Our penalty kill hasn’t been great yet but we’re working on it,” he said. “There’s a little bit of a difference with the ice. It comes down to picking your spots on when to be aggressive. We’re learning how to play together as a group right now and hopefully we’ll get more comfortable with each other as the tournament goes on.”

 

One aspect of Glendening’s game that has been apparent has been his work done in the face-off dot. He has the second highest face-off winning percentage among U.S. players at Worlds, winning 17 of 31 draws so far, a 56.67 percent mark. This season in the NHL, he won 55.7 percent of puck-dropping contests, 14th highest among centers.

 

It’s one of the biggest contributions you can expect from the forward who displays a true work-man like mentality each night. A native of Grand Rapids, Mich., Glendening played high school in the state, played four years at the University of Michigan, including serving as captain his senior year, while the current stop of his professional hockey career is spent making a living for the storied professional hockey franchise in his home state.

 

Blashill praised Glendening's consistent battle level. The Grand Rapids, Mich., native has two assists through four games in Slovakia, his first stint representing the United States in his career.Blashill praised Glendening's consistent battle level. The Grand Rapids, Mich., native has two assists through four games in Slovakia, his first stint representing the United States in his career.

Like the Mitten State’s geographical features, sometimes a place just fits like a glove.

 

“I’ve definitely been fortunate and blessed for how things have unfolded,” Glendening said. “It’s certainly not been an easy road, there’s been a lot of tough times, too. Maybe once I’m done playing, I’ll have more time to reflect on my career, but right now I’m working hard each day, feeling like I need to battle to earn my spot each night.”

 

It’s that kind of attitude that saw Glendening grow in Blashill’s favor at Little Caesars Arena, as well as in his first international appearance for his country in Slovakia. Despite an abundance of skill, the U.S. team knows that they will have to fight tooth and nail through the remainder of the tournament, off to a 2-1-0-1 start in preliminary play, to emerge with its first Men’s World Championship gold medal since 1933.

 

If that elusive victory comes down to winning a big defensive zone faceoff while clutching a lead in the waning seconds, Glendening could turn out to be the star that shines the brightest. Even if he wasn’t the most eye-catching name when the initial star-studded U.S. roster, including superstar and captain Patrick Kane was revealed.

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