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Daniel Cleary in, Pavel Datsyuk out of Red Wings lineup

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Columbus, Ohio — Pavel Datsyuk's return to the lineup was brief.

Datsyuk's groin injury kept him out of the lineup Tuesday against Columbus after returning to the lineup for two games last weekend.

He had missed the previous two games before that because of the sore groin.

Daniel Cleary took Datsyuk's spot in the lineup, although as coach Mike Babcock said, given Datsyuk's offensive abilities, "no one is replacing Pavel."

Babcock said Datsyuk did not make the trip to Columbus. The Red Wings will return to Detroit and practice Wednesday before flying out in the evening to Winnipeg (they play the Jets Thursday).

Whether Datsyuk will be ready for the Jets game remains to be seen.

Tuesday's game was Cleary's fourth game in the past couple weeks – his first four of the season – as he attempts to earn a regular spot in the lineup.

"It's important to keep your game as simple as you can," Cleary said. "You can't try to do too much. You skate, be good on the forecheck, and shoot when you can, be smart with the puck.

"You have to stay fit when you're not playing, make sure you're working hard."

Cleary contributed in Tuesday's 5-0 victory over Columbus, earning an assist on linemate Darren Helm's second goal of the season.

Cleary was on a line with Helm and Tomas Jurco (who scored his first goal and added an assist) against the Blue Jackets and the line clicked offensively.

"Go to the front of the net and stick around a little bit, be strong in the corners," said Cleary of his role on the line. "These guys are good players. We have to get a lot of players going offensively. These guys have a lot of talent."

Helm struggling

Tuesday's goal was a big one for Helm, who has seven points (two goals and five assists) in 17 games this season,

Helm admits he isn't skating the way he'd like.

"I don't have that jump, a step or half-step too slow, whatever it is," Helm said. "I haven't quite found my game that I want to be playing right now.

"I have a lot of room to improve and each game I'm trying to work harder and get to that spot."

Babcock feels that Helm is still finding his way back from two injury-plagued seasons.

"He's a guy who is trying to get his game back," Babcock said. "He's been injured for so long, he's trying to find his game. He's a work in progress but he's competing hard and working hard and he's healthy.

"He's on the ice all the time, and to me that's a key for him, getting on the ice and getting reps and earn your way to feeling confident."

Ice chips

Tuesday's start was Jimmy Howard's 300th NHL game, becoming only the sixth Red Wings goalie to reach that number.

Terry Sawchuk (734), Chris Osgood (565), Harry Lumley (324), Jim Rutherford (314) and Roger Crozier (313) are ahead of Howard.

… Goalie Petr Mrazek played Friday in Grand Rapids, which happened to be forward Anthony Mantha's pro debut. Mantha scored his first goal the next day.

Mrazek was impressed with what he saw from Mantha.

"He's a big guy (6-foot-5), big in front of the net, strong in the corners," Mrazek said. "He's going to help, he's going to score some goals."

… Normally the Red Wings would continue on to the next road stop on a trip. But because of the short flight from Columbus, they were to return home after the game, will practice at Joe Louis Arena, and fly late Wednesday afternoon to Winnipeg.