Two days before playing his 1,000th NHL game on Monday against the Lightning, the 39-year old Andy Greene was asked about his older teammate.
“Yeah, I won’t be getting to that number,” Greene said of Zdeno Chara’s 1,619 career games. “I promise you that. It’s unbelievable. It’s remarkable.”
It served as a good reminder of a couple things: the collective age of the wizened Islanders and the minor miracle that Chara can still put on skates. It also served to let you forget about Greene, whose career is in its swan song on the Island after putting in 14 years with the Devils.
But he, too, has been around. Here’s his recollection of his first ever game.
“Was at the old Continental [Airlines Arena] there in Jersey,” he said. “We played Atlanta.”
As in, the franchise that’s been based out of Winnipeg for the last decade.
On that January night in 2007, though, the Thrashers were on their way to a first and only playoff berth. Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Kozlov, two Soviet-born players, the latter a defector, had assists. Sergei Brylin scored the power-play winner for the Devils. Zach Parise had the secondary assist.
So maybe some things change more than others.
Still, Greene, once an undrafted free agent out of Miami-Ohio, understands the unlikelihood that this moment would come.
“Not something you think about as you’re starting your career,” he said Saturday. “Like I’ve said multiple times, when you first start off you’re worried about your first game. … You’re battling to stay in.
“That’s what I’ve tried to do throughout my whole career. Just kinda scratch and claw and go from here.”
The Trenton, Michigan, native found something in New Jersey, though — something that let him stick. Greene ended up playing a pivotal role on a Devils team that made the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, as well as five other playoff appearances with him there.
When Lou Lamoriello saw an opportunity to bring him to the Islanders in February 2020, he jumped at it. Fourteen years prior, Lamoriello had signed Greene with the Devils.
“Just felt like the perfect fit,” Greene said of that first deal, and that’s made the second that much easier.
With the Islanders, Greene is one of the older — though not oldest — men in the room. This week, Mathew Barzal joked that he wished Greene was closer to his age.
“I feel like at 24, me and him would have a blast together,” Barzal said.
That’s a function of the respect Barzal and the rest of his teammates have for Greene.
“He’s been huge for us,” Josh Bailey said Saturday. “I can’t say enough good things. You can see why he’s been around for as long as he has. He’s just a character person and player.”