DETROIT -- Danny Cleary will miss his first game of the season tonight when the Red Wings host the Anaheim Ducks, but the Detroit forward actually is relieved about it.
Well, technically speaking, it's his left knee that's most relieved after having fluid drained from it Thursday. The procedure likely will cost him the next three games, starting with tonight's game, but Cleary isn't fretting over it.
"I had 20 (cubic centimeters) of fluid drained … there was, like, two 'baker's cysts' in the back of my knee," he said after Detroit's morning skate Friday. "It's a great relief in regards to flexion and being able to walk. I had a cortisone shot put in later in the evening, so it feels a lot better today."
The cortisone injection typically comes with a 3-5 day recovery period, which is what will keep Cleary out of the lineup. The 33-year old forward has 11 goals and 16 assists this season while playing right wing on Detroit's third line, which has become one of the team’s most productive two-way line combinations.
Though he's had knee issues in the past, Cleary said this particular procedure is a new one for him to go through. He left Wednesday's game against Edmonton -- which Detroit won 4-2 to extend its home winning streak to 18 games -- in the second period after taking a big hit from Oilers forward Ben Eager.
The hit, however, had nothing to do with his decision to get the knee drained.
"It's been bothering me for two months now," Cleary said. "Then all of a sudden the last three or four weeks it started to fill up with fluid. Before we went on the (last) trip out to Vancouver and Calgary it was sore, so I knew I had to get it done. In Wednesday's game I just couldn't skate."
Cleary said it simply was better to have it done now, rather than wait
until the playoffs crept even closer.
"I'm actually very happy to get it done (now)," Cleary said. "It was a big relief. It had to get done at some point. I'm hoping that it really works and that the cortisone shot does its job."
Entering the Detroit lineup in Cleary's place against the Ducks will be rookie Jan Mursak, who will play left wing on the fourth line, with rookie Cory Emmerton at center and veteran Tomas Holmstrom -- playing his 1,000th NHL game -- at right wing.
Slotting into Cleary's spot at right wing of the third line will be Justin Abdelkader, who had been manning the middle on the fourth line for much of the season.
It will be just the fourth game of the season for Mursak, who was challenging to start the season with Detroit in training camp when he broke his ankle against Chicago in a preseason home game.
The injury kept him out for the first 35 games of the season and he's been a healthy scratch in 17 of the 20 games the Wings have played since he was cleared to return.
"Hopefully now, when I can get a few games in a row (my timing) will get a little better and I can make the most out of it," said the speedy Mursak. "I have no problems with my ankle anymore, so I can be the same me as I was before the injury. That's good. There's just little things that I have to do better. I have to be a little better in the defensive zone and I think it will come through the games I play."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock will be watching to see if it happens.
"We really thought he was going to be a big part of our team," Babcock said. "He broke his ankle. Well documented. He hasn't been able to get into the lineup on a regular basis. (He has) great speed, great tenacity and great shot. He's going to be a real good player for us over time. We just haven't found him a way into the mix. It's a good opportunity and now he's got a chance to keep a job if he works hard and does good things and plays with poise. Good things can happen for him."
Here is how the Red Wings and Ducks might line up tonight:
Bobby Ryan - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Jason Blake - Nick Bonino - Andrew Cogliano
Niklas Hagman - Rod Pelley - George Parros
Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Luca Sbisa - Lubomir Visnovsky
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank
Jonas Hiller will start in goal, with Iiro Tarkki the backup.
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Justin Abdelkader
Jan Mursak - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom
Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Jakub Kindl
Joey MacDonald will start in goal, with Ty Conklin the backup.