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Cleary's toughing it out in playoffs

Veteran forward needed, particularly on the Wings' penalty kill

Friday, 04.13.2012 / 2:00 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Cleary\'s toughing it out in playoffs
Despite a bad knee, Danny Cleary will be counted on for his penalty-killing strength in Friday's Game 2 vs. Nashville. (Photo by Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mike Babcock praised Danny Cleary for his gutty Game 1 performance Wednesday night against the Nashville Predators. But it likely wasn’t the veteran forward’s guts that got him through Game 1 Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena

“I thought he was one of our best forwards,” the Red Wings coach said. “When you show team clips, Dan Cleary's usually in them all the time. This year he hasn't been in them, because he can't skate.”

Skating wasn’t much of an issue the other night, though, despite the fact that he’s wheeling around on one healthy leg. Cleary has been bothered by a bad left knee that over time has developed two posterior Baker’s cysts, which have been drained of fluid several times since early February.

He describes the procedures as quite painful, but team doctors have prescribed a medicinal formula that should get Cleary through the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“How do I phrase this the right way? I think it was more … medicine helped a lot,” he said. “Yeah, it’s a little different in the playoffs than the regular-season. It’s not, I guess, medically fit to take this during the regular-season so that’s why in the playoffs the doses is a little bit better and it allowed me not to feel it, so I felt like normal. It’s good.”

Even though it appears that he’s operating on one leg at times, Cleary managed to log more than 15-minutes of ice-time in Game 1 and led all forwards with four-minutes on the penalty kill.

“He said he felt good,” Babcock said. “Ideally, they've (doctors) done a lot for him here to help him and he seems to be feeling better. And if he's feeling better he's a better player because he has to get there, he has to skate, that's his game. If he skates he can be physical. When you're playing on one leg, you play light and he normally plays very heavy for his 210 pounds. When you play light you're not very effective.”

The Wings certainly need Cleary to continue being effective on the penalty kill, especially now that his linemate, center Darren Helm (lacerated forearm) is out for the remainder of the playoffs.

“In order for us to win and move on everybody has to contribute, help out,” Cleary said. “So no better time than now to get some timely goals and play well defensively and that’s how it has always worked, the teams that advance and win series always got good depth.”

Before the start of the Western Conference quarterfinal series Cleary had indicated that he felt like he was at 50 percent, which raised eyebrows with Babcock.

“Yeah we talked just about, ‘Hey, let’s be honest with each other,’ ” Cleary said. “But I felt like 100 percent last game, so that was huge.”

Cleary will skate tonight on a line with center Justin Abdelkader and forward Gustav Nyquist, who is making his Stanley Cup playoffs debut. The hope, Cleary said, is that his line can create more inside chances to solve Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.

“In the playoffs you need to have pressure on the goaltender to do things that he’s not normally used to doing,” Cleary said. “Pekka Rinne is a great goaltender, so we have to try to get some traffic on him, force him to make saves or kick out rebounds that he wouldn’t normally do and get some goals in and around the goal area.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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