- Craig Custance
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Detroit's depth forwards were outproduced by Nashville's bottom six in Game 1 of their first-round series, with Paul Gaustad and Gabriel Bourque scoring all three of the Predators goals. The Red Wings are adding the skilled Gustav Nyquist into the lineup in place of Darren Helm, but the player who could make the biggest impact on that Detroit third line is Dan Cleary. He's been slowed all season with a knee injury but an upped dosage in pain killers during the playoffs is helping his skating.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock called Cleary one of Detroit's best forwards in Game 1 and sees signs that Cleary's skating has returned now that the knee is less of an issue.
"Dan Cleary is a great skater who knows how to play. When you show team clips, Dan Cleary is usually in them all the time. This year he hasn't been in them because he can't skate," Babcock said. "They've done a lot for him here to help him. He seems to be feeling better."
When asked if it was playoff adrenaline providing the boost, Cleary credited something else.
"How do I phrase this? The medicine helped a lot," he said. "It's a little different in the playoffs than the regular season. It's not medically fit to take this during the season. That's why the playoffs, the dose is a little better. It allowed me not to be able to feel it. I felt normal. It's good."
Gill sets ego aside
Predators defenseman Hal Gill won't play Game 2 and said he realized it would hurt more than help the team if he tried to play through his lower-body injury. He'll travel with the Predators to Detroit for Game 3 and is a possibility to return then.
"There's being tough and too much pride," Gill said in weighing the decision. "At this point I think it'd be too much pride to play. We have good players, we can win with them."
Still, sitting out hasn't been easy for Gill, who has a long history of having an impact this time of year.
"To win is awesome. I don't care how it happens. Those are the games you want to be a part of," Gill said. "Those are the fun ones. Playoff hockey is the most exciting thing I've ever had in my life, so it's tough not to play."
Fewer penalties in Game 2?
Babcock and Predators coach Barry Trotz both said they watched the other NHL playoff games on Thursday, and Babcock observed that there weren't quite as many penalties called in those contests as there were in his. In Game 1, the NHL's two least penalized teams during the regular season were called for 17 penalties. Babcock doesn't anticipate that many Friday night.
"I don't think that's going to happen," he said. "There will be more even strength."
Trotz seemed to think so as well.
"It's red or black. I'm not sure where I should bet on that one," he said. "I think it will settle down a little bit. I think it was one of those games no one has a clear answer on."
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