Islanders' Andy Greene closing in on 1,000 games played in his career
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Only 20 months have passed since the Islanders acquired Andy Greene during their last trip to face the Coyotes. But the COVID-19 pandemic has, in many ways, warped the perception of passing time.
"It seems like it was almost four different seasons ago," Greene told Newsday in advance of Saturday night’s game at Gila River Arena. "You got the trade, the shutdown, the (playoff) bubble, then we started in January last season, and then the playoffs and the short summer and we’re right back in it."
Saturday night marked the fifth stop on the Islanders’ season-opening, 13-game road trip and they were coming off Thursday night’s 3-2 overtime loss at Columbus, dropping them to 1-2-1.
They were also struggling the last time they faced the Coyotes as Greene, acquired because Adam Pelech was out with an Achilles’ tendon injury, joined for a 2-7-2 skid before the pandemic halted the season. NHL teams restarted operations that July with training camps to prepare for playoff bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton.
Although Greene was playing only his 70th regular season game for the Islanders on Saturday, he’s been through three training camps and 40 postseason games. He could reach the 1,000-game milestone for his career before this road trip ends.
Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello acquired the former Devils captain – who he signed for that franchise as an undrafted free agent out of Miami (Ohio) in 2006 – on Feb. 16, 2020. He had an assist in his Islanders’ debut the next day as the Islanders lost, 2-1, at Arizona.
"I got in kind of late the night before the game," said Greene, recalling his first game for the Islanders after 923 with the Devils. "I just remember meeting Trotzy (coach Barry Trotz) in the lobby and having a little talk and got to know him a little bit there. It was kind of nice, the next day was an afternoon game. It was almost kind of better, there wasn’t much thinking. We did our pre-scout and it was just right into it and there wasn’t really much time to think about it or think about what was transpiring."
Trotz, in his previous NHL stops with the Predators and Capitals, had been coaching against Greene since he entered the league with the Devils in 2007.
He’s since come to appreciate the balance between Greene’s calm demeanor and his quiet intensity.
"Before we had him, I didn’t know Andy," Trotz said. "Andy’s pretty relaxed. He’s a jokester. But he’s very confident that he knows the game quite well and he reads the game quite well and I think that gives him a lot of poise and patience."
As a result, Greene has become a fixture among the Islanders’ top six defensemen and the team is coming off back-to-back berths in the NHL semifinals since his acquisition. At 38, he’s no longer the team’s oldest blue-liner after 44-year-old future Hall of Famer Zdeno Chara signed as a free agent for this season.
And Greene, working on his second, one-year contract with the Islanders, certainly doesn’t sound ready for retirement.
"I still love the game and enjoy the effort and the work you’re required to do," Greene said. "I like to compete. And just being around the locker room, that camaraderie.
"As the kids get older, it’s tougher. They know what you’re doing. When they’re little babies, they don’t even realize you’ve left. As they’re getting older, they’re in school and it’s tougher now because they know how long I’ll be gone for. That’s why I always cherish the time I get with them."