NEW YORK -- Detroit Red Wings forward Daniel Cleary will make his season debut Wednesday against the New York Rangers (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TVA, SN1). It's his first game since Jan. 28.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said he's putting Cleary in the lineup because he's there to be a leader and the Red Wings need one after the way Babcock felt they played in a 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, when they were outshot 16-2 in the first period.
"I just think that [Tuesday] night we weren't prepared, we didn't play hard enough," Babcock said. "It was un-Red Wing like. To me, that start is unacceptable, and 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 take warm-ups on the fourth line with Luke Glendening and Drew Miller. He also said Andrej Nestrasil will be back in the lineup after being scratched the past two games. Tomas Jurco and Joakim Andersson will be healthy scratches for the first time this season.
"Well here is his opportunity, so what do you do with it?" Babcock said of Cleary. "I'm going to watch just like you. I'm going to see what happens. I'm about winning, so when you win I don't make many changes. I think he's one of those guys that can help people be better."
Meanwhile, the Rangers won't be as depleted against the Red Wings as they were Monday against the St. Louis Blues.
Forward Mats Zuccarello and defenseman Kevin Klein are expected to play. Ryan Malone and Dylan McIlrath, who played in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Blues, will come out of the lineup. McIlrath was returned to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League.
The Rangers still will be without defensemen Ryan McDonagh (separated shoulder), Dan Boyle (broken hand) and John Moore (suspension).
Klein missed the game Monday and most of the game Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets with a left foot contusion, a result of a blocked shot early in the first period against the Jets. Zuccarello sat out the game against St. Louis with an undisclosed injury.
"It's one of those things that obviously I have taken lots of shots off the feet in past years, and you hope it's not broken, that you can come back quickly," said Klein, who will be protected by an extra pad in his skate boot. "I'm able to do that, which is really nice. I felt good out there."
Rangers center Derek Stepan participated in contact drills at the end of the morning skate but will not make his season debut against the Red Wings. Stepan has been out since fracturing his leg in the preseason. He might play Saturday at the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"It's good to kind of get pushed around a little bit again," said Stepan, who hadn't participated in contact drills until Wednesday morning. "It's getting a lot stronger. I keep saying it, and I know it sounds like a broken record, but it's the truth: Each day it feels better. I got to push it a little more [Wednesday], and we'll continue going forward."
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault is hoping Zuccarello can regain the form he showed in the third period of the Rangers' 5-4 win against the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 27 when he broke out of his early-season slump with a goal and two assists. Zuccarello had one shot on goal in New York's 1-0 shootout loss to Winnipeg on Saturday.
"In the third period [against Minnesota], he was definitely where we need him to be, where he wants to be and where we know he can be," Vigneault said. "For whatever reason, with the puck, he wasn't effective as he can be. I'm hoping that one period against Minnesota will continue into [the] game against [the Red Wings], who are obviously going to be real focused and hungry."
The Red Wings are playing their second game in as many nights and third game in four nights. Babcock said any concerns they have about being tired are all mental and they need to get over them quickly.
"Get your legs in warm-up, get going," he said. "You can sit back easy and say, 'Geez, we traveled in late, and we played…' Give me a break. Let's play, man. The puck is going to be dropped. We're at Madison Square Garden. We're playing the Rangers. We were no good last night. Let's be better tonight."
Vigneault said he thinks Babcock's frustration is mainly with Detroit's many turnovers, something he said is out of character for a Babcock-coached team and something he doesn't anticipate happening again Wednesday.
"I know [Tuesday] wasn't from their playbook," Vigneault said. "They're not the type of team that turns pucks over and they were turning pucks over. Knowing their player personnel and the coaching personnel, they're going to want to respond with a much better game as far as managing the game and managing the puck."
Vigneault said the Rangers have shown improvements in recent weeks in using their speed with and without the puck.
"We're going to need that against Detroit," he said.
Here are the projected lineups:
Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Justin Abdelkader
Tomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Gustav Nyquist
Andrej Nestrasil - Darren Helm - Johan Franzen
Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - Daniel Cleary
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Danny DeKeyser - Brendan Smith
Jakub Kindl - Brian Lashoff
Scratched: Tomas Jurco, Joakim Andersson
Injured: Kyle Quincey (ankle), Stephen Weiss (groin)
Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider - Kevin Hayes - Martin St. Louis
Carl Hagelin - Dominic Moore - Anthony Duclair
Tanner Glass - Chris Mueller - Lee Stempniak
Marc Staal - Dan Girardi
Kevin Klein - Matt Hunwick
Conor Allen - Michael Kostka
Scratched: Ryan Malone
Suspended: John Moore
Injured: Ryan McDonagh (shoulder separation), Dan Boyle (broken hand), Derek Stepan (fractured leg)
Status report: Vigneault will coach his 900th NHL game Wednesday. "It's just an honor and a privilege to be able to coach in this league," he said. "Nine hundred is, when you think about it, a lot of hockey games. I hope to keep coaching a few more." … The Rangers are trying to bring veteran defenseman Tomas Kaberle in for a tryout to see if he can help their depleted defense. Vigneault said he was under the impression Kaberle was supposed to arrive Wednesday, but Kaberle was having immigration issues trying to leave Toronto and did not arrive in time for the morning skate. … Gustavsson will make his first start since Oct. 25 against the Philadelphia Flyers. Howard has started four consecutive games and has allowed two goals in each.
Who's hot: St. Louis is coming off a two-goal third period against the Blues. … Zetterberg scored Detroit's goal against Ottawa and has 14 points in his past nine games. … Datsyuk was held off the scoresheet Tuesday for the first time in seven games this season. He has five goals and five assists.