DETROIT – Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is doing everything he can to try and get Daniel Cleary out of his offensive slump.
Babcock has sat Cleary as a healthy scratch and then promoted him to play alongside Pavel Datsyuk a few games later.
Nothing has seemed to work.
“You just have to be good defensively, do the little things and always believe your game will come out of it,” Cleary said. “Being a professional, you have to mentally be strong and sometimes you go through stretches where … it’s one thing if the team is winning but we haven’t been winning.”
Cleary has just one goal and two assists in 24 games this season.
“Just like you, not enough,” Babcock said when asked what he was seeing out of Cleary. “The bottom line is confidence is a tough thing in the league.”
Cleary has not scored in 18 straight games.
Last Saturday, Babcock added Cleary to a line with Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi.
“It’s like winning the lottery,” Babcock said of anyone skating on a line with Datsyuk.
As the game progressed Cleary saw his ice time decrease ending with him playing just one shift in the third period of the Wings’ 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
“We’re hoping ideally that playing with Pav might help him,” Babcock said before the game. “Pav’s a pretty good player and yet we need Pav to be going big-time for us to have success and helping him in some ways is probably more important than helping Cleary. That’s our thought process right now.”
Babcock, whose squad is 2-3-5 over its last 10 games, said afterwards that it wasn’t a benching, he just wanted to see Justin Abdelkader inserted there “for a different look.”
On Sunday, Cleary played his fewest shifts of the season, 14, and registered no shots on goal in just over 11 minutes of ice time.
“It’s in the middle,” Cleary said when asked where his confidence level was. “We’ve all been through it. You have to stay positive, have to stay confident. That’s the only way to get through it.”
Cleary reached a deal with the Wings a day into training camp after turning down a professional tryout by the Philadelphia Flyers, getting one year at $1.75 million.
Cleary, 34, reportedly was offered a three-year deal worth $2.75 million a season to join the Flyers but he shot down the report on his first day at camp.
When Cleary rejected the Wings’ two- and three-year offers prior to the opening of free agency they moved on and signed Daniel Alfredsson (one year, $5.5 million) and Stephen Weiss (five years, $24.5 million).
“You can’t meet with him every day,” Babcock said. “You can talk to them about their kids every day. You can see them at the coffee pot. You can’t talk to them about hockey every day, they’d quit hockey.”