First time playing in the city since he turned down a three-year offer from the Flyers
Philadelphia — Dan Cleary isn’t sure what kind of reception he will receive in Philadelphia tonight, but given the history of Flyers’ hockey fans, chances are they’ll be giving the Detroit Red Wings forward the gears all night long.
Cleary spurned a three-year offer from the Flyers on the eve of training camp to resign with the Red Wings for one year.
An unrestricted free agent, the Flyers were prepared to invite the Riverhead, Harbour Grace native to camp on a professional tryout, later signing the 35-year-old to a new deal when they freed up salary cap space.
But Cleary bucked the professional sports trend, agreeing to less money by signing a one-year, $1.75 million contract with Detroit.
“Yeah, I was real close to coming here,” Cleary said this morning after the Red Wings’ practice at First Union Centre. “I would expect to hear some catcalls and see a few signs. They’re a passionate bunch here.”
More importantly, it’s a big game for the Red Wings and Flyers, a pair of teams sitting below the eight spot that dictates playoff teams in the Eastern Conference. Only two points separate Detroit (23-18-11) and Philly (25-22-6).
“We’re really battling for a playoff spot,” said Cleary. “It’s been a grinding season … really tough. I’m just trying to keep myself healthy and keep going.”
Health, or lack of, has been a problem area for the Wings. Johan Franzen was placed on injured reserve this morning with concussion-like symptoms, one game after returning to the lineup. Neither Henrik Zetterberg nor Pavel Datsyuk are with the team in Philadelphia as both are nursing injuries.
Zetterberg missed 11 games earlier in the season due to injury, while tonight’s game will be the 11th straight Datsyuk has missed. And Stephen Weiss hasn’t played since Dec. 10.
“To say it’s been a trying season might be an understatement,” Cleary said.
“This is a big game for both teams, quite frankly. The Flyers have struggled, too.”
The Red Wings are coming off a 5-4 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, but the good news is Detroit has the best road record (14-7-3) in the East.
The Flyers are currently on a three-game losing streak.
As for Cleary, it’s been a trying year with only four goals and four assists in 31 games.
He’s currently in a seven-game slump without a point, and has only one goal in his last 16 games.