Dan Cleary, Ilya Bryzgalov

Is Dan Cleary the heir to Tomas Holmstrom’s throne in front of the net?


The Detroit Red Wings don’t generally have a shortage of talent very often these days. With guys like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, and Jimmy Howard it’s hard to see how the Red Wings ever have a hard time having success.

Even in spite of all that, some of their key players are a bit older. Lidstrom is in his 40s and going strong, but a guy like Tomas Holmstrom is 38 years-old and worse for the wear given the sort of offensive game he plays. Parking yourself in front of the opposing goalie and taking your lumps from defensemen and goalies alike takes a toll on your body and for Holmstrom, this upcoming season could be his last in the NHL.

Thankfully for the Wings, they’ve got a guy in Dan Cleary who had a breakout of sorts last year and could be poised to take over Holmstrom’s role this year. As Helene St. James of The Detroit Free-Press says, the transition of going from Holmstrom to Cleary could’ve been helpful in the playoffs last year.

He could have a more secure position this season as a top-six forward, depending on what happens with Tomas Holmstrom.

Holmstrom has been a mainstay as one of Datsyuk’s wingers for years, but he is getting up in age (38) and might be more useful as mainly a power-play guy.

Cleary should challenge for time there, too, instead of being left off the power play as he was during the playoffs, even as the Wings sputtered against the Sharks, finishing that series 4-for-28.

If Cleary can pick up where he left off at last year when he scored 26 goals and added 20 assists for a career high 46 points, he’ll force the issue for coach Mike Babcock. Cleary was able to do some of the dirty work in front of the net while Holmstrom dealt with injury problems last season and did well on the power play with five goals on the man advantage last year.

That’s a far cry from what Holmstrom did scoring 10 of his 18 goals on the power play, but if Cleary is going to be the guy to take his spot there he’ll have to improve his numbers. With Cleary being six years younger and a less abused than Holmstrom, he’s an ideal candidate to fill those very large shoes in front of the net. What Cleary did last year with his ability at even strength has shown he’s capable of being a top six forward with the Wings, it just remains to be seen if it’s his time to take that job and make it his own from here on out.

Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
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Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
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You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

Ryan Johansen
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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.