Andy Greene brings both his skill and sense of togetherness to Islanders
Then-Devils boss Lou Lamoriello promised Andy Greene nothing more than a chance coming out of Miami (Ohio) as an undrafted free agent in 2006. That was 999 games and one organization ago.
"Coming out, that’s all you want, is a chance," Greene said on Saturday after the Islanders’ practice at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. "I knew if I got a chance, I’d be able to make it, and I was fortunate enough to do that."
Greene is set to become the 18th undrafted free agent to reach the 1,000-game milestone when the Islanders (5-4-2) resume their 13-game road trip against the two-time Stanley Cup champion Lightning on Monday night, looking to snap a two-game losing streak.
It will be Greene’s 77th game since Lamoriello, now the Islanders’ president and general manager, acquired the former Devils captain on Feb. 16, 2020.
"The biggest thing for me with Greener is the second he got in here, he fit in," defenseman Scott Mayfield said. "I think we had some guys hanging out in one of the lounges we had and he comes in and you would think he’d played on the team for years."
The 39-year-old Greene combines that veteran’s maturity and a self-comfort with who he is with a boyish love for the sport. After all, he’s still five years younger than the Islanders’ oldest defenseman, Zdeno Chara.
"I love Greeney," Mathew Barzal said. "He’s much older than me and he’s got kids and a family at home and he’s living that life. I wish that he was 10, 12 years younger, like my age, because I feel like at 24, me and him would have a blast together."
To which Greene, playing on his second one-year deal with the Islanders, responded that 39 "is a number. It doesn’t mean much to me."
The only thing Greene knows for sure about his future is that he won’t try to match Chara’s 1,600-plus games in the NHL.
"I’m still feeling young," Greene said. "It helps having Big Z here. It takes that title away from me. You have to have that youthful energy. It’s good to be around the guys. It’s a lot of fun."
The 6-9, 255-pound Chara towers over the 5-11, 190-pound Greene, who’s made it to his milestone game playing smart positional hockey with an emphasis on defensive play.
Coach Barry Trotz said Greene has such a calm demeanor during games that he’ll joke with him on the bench, "Don’t be nervous."
Greene has 50 goals and 205 assists in the regular season and an additional five goals and nine assists in 90 postseason games.
He reached the Stanley Cup Final with the Devils in 2012 — they lost to the Kings in six games — but that franchise made it back to the postseason just once in his last seven full seasons in New Jersey.
The Islanders have reached the NHL semifinals twice with Greene, losing to the Lightning both times.
"You look at Andy Greene, he’s not overly big, he’s not overly fast," Trotz said. "There’s probably nothing physically that stands out about Andy. But when you watch the game really closely, he never makes the wrong decision. He makes very poised plays. He cleans up everybody’s messes.
"When you coach these guys and they have the impact on the game that they do, it’s really delightful. But that’s why those guys don’t get drafted really high, or Andy Greene can get through the draft."
Notes & quotes: Casey Cizikas (non-COVID-19 illness) did not practice, but Trotz said he expects Cizikas to be back at the practice facility on Sunday . . . Leo Komarov was placed on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating the final season of his four-year, $12 million deal. Komarov initially cleared waivers and was reassigned to the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on Oct. 19. Instead, he will play for SKA Saint Petersburg in the KHL.