Dan can see Cleary in Hockeytown

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

DETROIT -- Daniel Cleary is on the bottom of the NHL pay scale, but he's landed right on top of the hockey heap after signing with the Detroit Red Wings a month ago.

Cleary, 26, who played 220 games with the Edmonton Oilers from 2000 to 2003, has turned a camp tryout into a one-year contract with the Red Wings for the NHL minimum salary, a $450,000 deal he signed Oct. 4.

All things considered, Hockeytown isn't a bad place to land for Cleary, who was deemed excess baggage by the Phoenix Coyotes and cut loose before the NHL lockout.

"I won the lottery," smiles Cleary, who was without an NHL job until the Red Wings inked him. "I talked with a few teams.

"I train with (Mathieu) Schneider and Chelly (Chris Chelios) in the summer and they raved about Detroit. I thought it would be a good opportunity and a great team to play for."

Cleary faced the Oilers last night with four assists in his first 13 games in Detroit silks. He's been toiling on Mike Babcock's fourth line and killing penalties. Cleary's a role guy now, playing about 11 minutes a night.

And, while that's a far cry from the hoopla he enjoyed when the Chicago Blackhawks selected him 13th overall in the 1997 Entry Draft, it's honest work on a team that's served notice it will contend for the Stanley Cup despite considerable turnover on the roster.

"It's been a great experience, so far," Cleary said. "It's early, but we're off to a great start and I'm really happy to be here.

"Things happen for a reason. I came here and played well enough to make the club. I've been playing well so far. I'm just trying to find my own niche with this team."

TWINKLE TOES TODD: Todd Harvey is not only comfortable in his role as a grinder with the Oilers but in his masculinity.

Harvey, 30, who scored his first goal as an Oiler in last Tuesday's 5-1 waltz over Columbus, is sporting toenails painted in bright pink polish these days, courtesy of daughters Dilyn and Carsyn.

"We were sitting around and they just started painting them," said Harvey, who's been taking some ribbing in the dressing room over his fetching tootsies. "They wouldn't do my baby toe because they said it was ugly."


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