NEW YORK – Following the Red Wings’ 3-1 loss at Ottawa Tuesday, coach Mike Babcock had plenty of time to think about his team’s lackluster performance and what he could do to shake things up tonight.
With that, Babcock decided to make a couple of lineup changes for the Red Wings' game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Veteran forward Daniel Cleary will make his season debut for the Red Wings, playing in his first game since last January. Rookie forward Andrej Nestrasil returns to the lineup after sitting out the past two games as a healthy scratch. Forwards Joakim Andersson and Tomas Jurco are healthy scratches against the Rangers.
The decision to chance the Wings’ lineup was made easy by the team’s slow start in Ottawa.
“It was un-Red Wing like. To me, that start's unacceptable,” Babcock said. “I'm eager to win, how's that? I just think that last night we weren't prepared, we didn't play hard enough.”
The 35-year-old Cleary has been a healthy scratch through the first 12 games of the season. In recent years, he has battled health issues, including a bad knee that has slowed his productivity. Last season, Cleary had four goals and eight points in 52 games.
"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. “Here’s his opportunity, right? So what do you do with it? I’m going to watch just like you. I’m going to see what happens tonight. I’m about winning. When you win, I don’t make many changes. I think he’s one of these guys who can help people around him be better.”
Andersson and Jurco have appeared in every game this season, but Babcock said there were plenty of candidates to choose from to scratch from tonight’s lineup.
“Two guys drew the short straw but there could have been a bunch,” Babcock said. “There was a whole bunch of guys battling to be out tonight.”
Jurco has two assists with a plus-2 rating, while Andersson is without a point with a minus-2 rating. In 10 games this season, Nestrasil has an assist and has been used on the Wings’ second power-play unit.
“I’m not sure (Jurco is) the guy who should be out tonight. But he’s just a kid,” Babcock said. “The NHL is a hard league. I’ve seen a lot of guys come back for their second year and it doesn’t go quite as good and now it’s the mental part. When you think about it, I probably put gas on the fire today.”