Cleary expects to keep time in Motown

Robin
Robin Short
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Doesn't see his role or minutes changing because of Hossa's arrival

He managed only a pair of goals in 22 Stanley Cup playoff games last spring, but Dan Cleary was still one of head coach Mike Babcock's go-to guys through the Detroit Red Wings' post-season run, which probably won't change this season, even with the arrival of a high-priced free agent forward in Motown.

"He's a guy," Cleary said of newcomer Marian Hossa, who's costing Detroit almost $7.5 million for one year, "who also plays in all situations like myself. But I'm not sure if it will affect my ice time. I always believe that if you work hard and play well, the coach has no other choice but to play you and that's how Babs does it.

Dan Cleary enters the Detroit Red Wings' training camp after a short off-season and some intensive training. - File photo

He managed only a pair of goals in 22 Stanley Cup playoff games last spring, but Dan Cleary was still one of head coach Mike Babcock's go-to guys through the Detroit Red Wings' post-season run, which probably won't change this season, even with the arrival of a high-priced free agent forward in Motown.

"He's a guy," Cleary said of newcomer Marian Hossa, who's costing Detroit almost $7.5 million for one year, "who also plays in all situations like myself. But I'm not sure if it will affect my ice time. I always believe that if you work hard and play well, the coach has no other choice but to play you and that's how Babs does it.

"We have a lot of good players and only 60 minutes to go around. I think you'll see more guys with similar ice time rather than two or three guys with 22-plus minutes."

Detroit made a big splash in the off-season free agent pool by signing Hossa. The high-scoring forward, who helped the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Cup final last season before losing to Detroit, turned down a couple of multi-year offers and bigger money to sign in Motown.

Hossa logged the most ice time of any Pittsburgh forward in the regular season and playoffs last year.

Cleary wasn't no slouch, either. Through the post season, only Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen saw more ice than the Riverhead, Harbour Grace native, who rewrote Newfoundland sports history by becoming the first from this province to win the Stanley Cup.

Cleary was used in every situation in the Cup final - power play, penalty kill and regular shift. As Detroit clung to a 3-2 lead in the series-clinching Game 6 in Pittsburgh last June, Cleary was on the ice helping protect the slim margin in the last minute of play.

But there's been little rest for the weary.

After bringing the Stanley Cup to Newfoundland in early July, Cleary headed back to California to resume training with renowned fitness guru T.R. Goodman. Cleary gives a great deal of credit to Goodman for getting the hockey player in shape and resurrecting his career.

"I started training the first week of July," he said. "I spoke with (captain Nick) Lidstrom and (Kris) Draper and I asked them when they would start training, and I just followed their lead. Not bad players to follow.

"I actually picked it up a lot more," he said of his training. "Because I didn't have a lot of time, I felt I had to catch up to the rest of the players in the league who had been training for two months already.

"Mentally, I feel fresh. Physically, I feel OK."

If there's a drawback to going deep in the Stanley Cup playoffs, it's the decrease in off-season downtime.

It's led to what some refer to as a Stanley Cup hangover, that catches up with reigning championship teams mid-way through the following season.

"It's affected a lot of teams, with the exception of Detroit in '98," he said. "With the leadership and experience we have, I feel we have a great chance repeating. We were a great team before Hossa and with him, we are that much better. Our depth just gets deeper."

Cleary, entering the first year of a contract extension which will pay him $14 million through 2012-2013, enjoyed a career-high 20 goals and 22 assists last season.

That despite the fact he missed 19 games with a broken jaw suffered Feb. 9 in Toronto when he was struck by the puck.

A 25- or even 30-goal campaign might not have been out of the picture had he been healthy all season.

"I always have certain expectations of myself and this year is no exception," he said. "I was having a solid year before the injury so this year I'm looking to do the same and more.

"Playing with talented players only helps things that much more. But I just want to be consistent and work hard ... don't over-think out there and play my game."

rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins

Geographic location: California, Motown, Detroit Pittsburgh Newfoundland Toronto

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  • Bobby
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    HELP BRING THE QMJHL BACK TO ST. JOHN'S

    http://www.new.facebook.com/group.php?gid=36582237106

  • Dan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    You heard it here first. Dan Cleary - Team Canada 2010. !!

  • Bobby
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    HELP BRING THE QMJHL BACK TO ST. JOHN'S

    http://www.new.facebook.com/group.php?gid=36582237106

  • Dan
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    You heard it here first. Dan Cleary - Team Canada 2010. !!