The Red Wings are hoping a little rest will go a long way for Dan Cleary.
That’s the plan, anyway, as Detroit will hold the 33-year-old right winger out of today’s regular season finale against Chicago (1 p.m. ET, NBC.) Wings GM Ken Holland told the Detroit Free Press that Cleary “is out [for Chicago] but will play Game 1,” suggesting that Saturday is a maintenance day for the veteran forward, who has slogged through an injury-riddled campaign.
More, from the Free Press’ Helene St. James:
Cleary has had a trying season. He sustained a rib injury during the exhibition season that took about six months to fully heal. Then he re-aggravated his surgically repaired left knee in mid-November, and while originally it was believed it could be treated without surgery, the pain got worse and worse. Over the past two months, he’s had the knee drained several times and had at least three gel injections in his knee in hopes of offsetting the bone-on-bone grind.
Speaking to Cleary last month, he estimated he has been pain-free for all of a week, and said he’ll have surgery as soon as the season ends. A common sight after games is to see him with a giant ice bag taped around the knee. He hasn’t not walked gingerly in ages.
Clearly last played on Wednesday (in a 3-2 shootout win over St. Louis) and by skipping the Blackhawks game, he’ll get almost a full week’s rest prior to the start of the playoffs (which open on Apr. 11.) That’s huge, because the Wings will need Cleary come playoff time. He’s one of the team’s most veteran postseason performers — 42 points in 102 career games — and was huge during Detroit’s last Stanley Cup run, finishing with 15 points in 23 games and a league-best plus-17 rating.