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Cleary eyes return to Wings' lineup

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Forward Danny Cleary has his eyes set on a Tuesday return when the Red Wings travel to Chicago to face the Blackhawks. (Photo by Getty Images)
DETROIT – Forward Danny Cleary anticipates a return to the Red Wings’ lineup Tuesday night in Chicago after he had his left knee drained of fluid twice last week.

“Yeah, I think I have to see how it goes tomorrow and go from there,” said Cleary, who was placed on injured reserve Feb. 8. “We’re planning for it.”

While Cleary expects to be reunited with his third-line teammates center Darren Helm and forward Drew Miller, he said it’s going to take some time before he feels 100 percent healthy.

“It’s not going to be pain-free,” Cleary said. “Probably won’t be for the rest of the season, but trying to get it as high of a percentage as we can and that’s where we’re at right now.”

Cleary said that doctors extracted 25cc of fluid – the equivalent of five teaspoons – each time they drained the two Baker’s cysts that had formed behind his knee.

The Wings will face a Blackhawks team that has won three straight games, which comes on the heels of a 0-8-1 tail-spin that has Chicago trailing the Wings by 13-points in the Western Conference standings.

“I’m sure that their players have finally had enough,” Cleary said. “I mean, we’ve been in a similar spot earlier in the season and they’ve got guys who have won there and they weren’t happy. You just have to look at the standings and say, ‘Hey, if we don’t correct the ship here we’re going to be on the outside looking in.’

“They’re a talented team and a dangerous team and it’s going to be a tough team for us tomorrow.”

The Wings are 2-1-0 against Chicago this season with all three games decided by 3-2 outcomes, including the two overtime wins on goals by Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi.

“They came off it a bit just like lots of teams come off it,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They got home and they got regrouped. Let’s be careful what we wish for.”

 All-Star goalie Jimmy Howard (finger) is also expected to return to the Wings’ lineup Tuesday in Chicago. Howard, who is tied for the league-lead in wins (32) with Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, has missed the last eight games.

The play of backup goalie Joey MacDonald (6-1-1) has given the Wings the luxury of sitting Howard two or three additional games and allowing his finger to heal more.

Asked if he planned to use Howard and MacDonald in a rotation over the final 6 ½ weeks of the regular-season, Babcock was non-committal.

“I'm going to do what we always do, we're going to try and win the games,” he said. “Whoever's in a better situation to help us win games that's what we're going to do. That's what we've been doing since Joey got here so that's no different.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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