After scoring in season debut, Cleary gets another game

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Dan Cleary was in the press box for Detroit’s first 12 games this season so, when finally called upon Wednesday night, he knew he needed to take advantage of the opportunity.

Which he did.

Cleary scored midway through the second period of a 4-3 OT loss to the Rangers two nights ago. That, combined with his overall outing — four hits in just over nine minutes of ice time — earned him another nod tonight against the Devils (Tomas Jurco and Joakim Andersson will sit as the healthy scratches.)

It’s a nice bit of redemption for Cleary, though it’s probably too quick to start handing out back-pats. The 35-year-old is often maligned by Red Wings fans and his new deal this summer — a one-year, $1.5 million pact — was met with criticism, which only grew louder when Cleary couldn’t get on the lineup sheet for the first 12 games of the season.

Then came Wednesday’s game against the Rangers, and Mike Babcock’s reason for inserting Cleary. From MLive:

“A big part of what Dan Cleary is supposed to provide here is leadership and helping young guys be better. I’m sure he can do that.”

Babcock said Cleary will skate alongside Drew Miller and Luke Glendening in warmups.

Cleary, 35, missed the second half of last season with chronic knee issues before signing a one-year deal to return for a 10th season with the Red Wings.

“Here’s his opportunity, right?” Babcock said. “So what do you do with it? I’m going to watch just like you. I’m going to see what happens tonight. I’m about winning. When you win, I don’t make many changes.

“I think he’s one of these guys who can help people around him be better.”

Even though Detroit lost to the Rangers, Cleary did enough to warrant another crack tonight. It’ll be interesting to see how this dynamic plays out moving forward but for now, the grizzled vet is back in the mix.