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Detroit's red-hot Cleary trying to play it cool

by Brian Hedger
DETROIT – Red Wings forward Danny Cleary isn't wearing the same underwear until his goal streak ends.
He's also not taking the same, exact amount of steps from his car to his locker for practices, nor is he eating nothing but fried chicken. Over-the-top superstitious behaviors aren't for him.

He is wearing a new set of wrist bands each game and following the same basic game-preparation model, but not much more during a career-best goal streak of six games and career-best point streak of eight games.
"I'm not too crazy," Cleary said after Detroit's morning skate Friday in preperation for a game against Minnesota at Joe Louis Arena. "You try to keep the same routine. You stretch and you do your thing. Then once you get into the game you can't let little things affect your mind if you don't do them the same way. That part … I'm not crazy like that."
That doesn't surprise Wings coach Mike Babcock, who attributes Cleary's recent run of goals – eight in the last six games – more to work ethic and a confidence to pull the trigger on his shot.

"None of the good players are superstitious at all," Babcock said. "They just play. He's having success because he's playing hard first. Secondly, the puck's going in, so he's shooting the puck more than he normally would -- and if it goes in there must be a message in that."
The message?
Shoot the puck more and it will go in more. Seems pretty basic, which is why Babcock can't understand why more guys don't heed the advice.
"The guys who score the most goals every year shoot the puck the most," he said. "You'd think everyone would shoot the puck, but that's not how it works. When you don't score, you don't shoot the puck. That doesn't make any sense to me."
Cleary seems to understand the logic just fine, but it's his contribution at both ends of the ice that Babcock is most happy to see. With 9 goals and 14 points, Cleary is one of the Wing's top scorers, but his plus-5 rating is indicative of somebody who doesn't like having the puck get past his own goaltender while he's on the ice.
Cleary also has an affordable contract.
"The great thing about Dan Cleary is that in a (salary)-cap world … he can do everything," Babcock said. "That's what you need. You need guys who can do everything, because they've got to fit a certain salary structure on your team. Dan works hard and I think he's a team leader with work ethic on the ice. He does things right. He says good things and he plays hard."
Wild about the power play – Minnesota comes into Friday night's game with the best power play in the League, scoring at a clip of 29 percent (20 for 69). The best thing about that for the Wild, according to coach Todd Richards, is the effect it has on teams preparing to play Minnesota.
"Teams have to take note of that," Richards said. "I think it does affect how certain teams play five on five. You're talking about it before (the game). 'Listen, this is the No.1 power play in the League. We can't give these guys opportunities.' So, maybe now they're a little more cautious as to how they approach it and maybe back off in certain areas because they don't want to take penalties."
Minnesota isn't having nearly the same kind of success at even strength, scoring just 17 of their 40 goals thus far. Captain and center Mikko Koivu is also the only player with a positive rating right now at plus-7.
"It says a lot about our team," Richards said. "We haven't been able to score five on five. Our power play's been very good. Goaltending's been very good. But as far as scoring goals and giving us an opportunity to win games, the big thing's been our power play."
Changing it up: Babcock is expected to stick with the same line combinations that he concocted during the last game against St. Louis, except for Patrick Eaves in for Drew Miller on the fourth line.
In a 7-3 home win against St. Louis, Babcock moved Tomas Holmstrom to the fourth line and put Johan Franzen on the first with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
"I'll have three groups and we'll see what happens," Babcock said of his power-play units. "Our power play, as much as we've talked about it, is Top 10 in the League. It scored us two power-play goals last game. It just never seems to get lots of goals for us. We'd like it to be more dangerous."
Star gazing – Minnesota defenseman Marco Scandella, 20, said he'll be anxiously watching Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom from the bench Friday night.
Lidstrom was Scandella's favorite player when Scandella was a youngster and he's looking forward to being on the same ice. Richards is fine with that, so long as the youngster isn't too star-struck by Lidstrom or other Wings. It will be just the fourth NHL game for Scandella, who was recalled Nov. 12 from Houston of the American Hockey League.
"As a kid growing up, especially his age, it was (all about the) Detroit Red Wings, going back to Steve Yzerman and obviously Nick Lidstrom," Richards said. "Now you're going to be out on the ice lining up right next to him on the face-off. With the other players they have over there, it can be overwhelming, but you've got to get past that. You have to respect your opponents, but you can't be asking them for autographs while you're lining up for a face-off … 'Can you sign my stick?'"
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