SHORT HILLS, N.J. — Truth be told, Colin Greening would prefer to keep his gloves on.
But the Senators wanted him to play with an edge this season, and that’s what he’s been doing.
Along with his 32 points (12 goals) in 48 games as a first-year pro, Greening has had four fights, including one with Jon “Nasty” Mirasty, an AHL bad boy who scrapped 29 times last season.
“I wouldn’t consider myself a fighter at all,” said Greening, a 6-foot-3, 211-pounder who is expected to make his NHL debut Tuesday night in New Jersey. “I kind of defend myself. That’s the best way to describe it. I’ve got into a few scraps I didn’t even want to get into, but it’s one of those things where you kind of either get beat up or fight back. That’s kind of the mentality I had about it.
“Once you kind of get used to that mentality, where every now and then you need to defend yourself, you gain more confidence. I think that’s kind of helped me through the first 50 games in the AHL.”
Greening was a seventh-round pick in 2005 who averaged nearly a point a game in his final three years at Cornell University. Despite developing into one of the Senators’ better prospects since October, he didn’t anticipate seeing the NHL in his first year of pro.
“To be honest, it was a big surprise,” the 24-year-old said of the phone call informing him of the promotion. “I was on the tarmac in Chicago with my girlfriend. We had planned this weekend. She was saying to me, ‘Where do you want to eat first in Chicago?’ and I’m getting this call ... I’m like, ‘I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that anymore.
“She was happy for me, obviously.
“My family’s coming from Newfoundland ... I know there’s a storm warning coming in, so hopefully they’re going to make it in (Monday) night,” said Greening, a St. John’s native. “My girlfriend is going to try and get in as well.
“She hasn’t dumped me yet. Hopefully I play well.”
The Senators just want him to play like he’s been playing. As of Monday’s practice, Greening was expected to start the game on a line with Jesse Winchester and Peter Regin. But that could change, as coach Cory Clouston says there are a “couple” of players who may come out.
“(Greening’s) come a long way since the start of the season,” said Clouston “He’s been using his size and strength, he skates well for a big man. And he’s very strong.
“We need him to be a physical player. We need him to use his speed. Go to the net. He’s got more skill than maybe people give him credit for. I think we saw it (Monday) in practice. He’s got a pretty good shot as well.”
Excited over getting this shot, Greening was hoping he could sleep at least eight hours Monday night. That probably didn’t happen.
“This is something I’ve dreamed about since I was five years old, ever since I went on the ice for the first time,” he said. “My parents were like, ‘Yeah, that could be you out there’ when we were watching TV. So it’s a bit surreal. I’m just trying to take it all in. Live in the moment.”