NASHVILLE – As recently as last week, Red Wings right wing Dan Cleary said his left knee was only at 50 percent.
Without giving away too much, Cleary said Friday that improved medication is helping him in the playoffs. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he thought that Cleary was one of the team’s better forwards in Detroit’s 3-2 loss in Game 1 and that Cleary played a “heavy” game and not a “light” game on the periphery, as he was forced to do during the regular season when the knee bothered him.
Cleary played 15:49 and posted an even rating. Cleary was one of only four Red Wings not to be a minus in Game 1 and one of those four was center Darren Helm, who endured a playoff-ending laceration to his forearm and played only 3:06.
“How do I phrase this the right way? The medicine helped a lot,” Cleary said of Game 1. “It’s a little different in the playoffs. … The dose is a little better. It allowed to me to be able not to feel [the pain], so I felt like normal. It’s good.
“Let’s put it this way, medicine certainly helped -- like a lot. The type that you take in the playoffs is a lot different. It was a huge difference. I felt like normal. I could skate.”
Cleary normally kills penalties with Helm so he said he did not think he would see more time on the penalty kill. But he said Helm’s loss was a blow to the team. Helm underwent surgery Wednesday.
“His loss is felt for sure,” Cleary said.
He said he had spoken to Helm and was asked about Helm’s spirits.
“How would you be, you know?” he said. “He’s pretty down, but at least he’s -- in a way -- healthy. You know, there’s no nerve damage, so that was a huge thing but his loss is going to be felt, huge, huge loss.”