Nashville Predators forward Rich Clune has been wearing a jaw protector for the past few weeks, which has not allowed him to be able to fight in games like he was with a fair degree of regularity during the first part of the season.
Not only was he not able to fight because of an injury he suffered that forced him to wear the jaw protector, fighting with the jaw protector on was out of the question because Clune would have been given an additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for fighting with face protection according to NHL rule 46.6. This presented a problem for Clune and the Predators, who could have used a spark that maybe a fight would have provided many times over the last couple of weeks.
“It was pretty frustrating. I think there were times where we could’ve used a little more momentum, a little energy,” Clune said.
Now, the jaw protector has been off for two consecutive days leading up to Friday’s home contest against the Edmonton Oilers, which will allow Clune to be able to fight without fear of an additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Still, Clune knows there’s much more to his game than just fighting, which he showed during the time he wasn’t able to fight.
“I’m not going to go out and fight every game. I don’t think that’s effective, but there’s definitely a few times where I think that’s why I’m here as opposed to someone else. It was tough. I managed. I think I showed that I can play and hold a regular shift and be effective, which was kind of a blessing in disguise,” Clune said.
Clune has been very solid on the forecheck so far this season and has played with great energy. He brings a similar element to the Predators as Jordin Tootoo did. He plays with a lot of energy and tries to transfer that energy to the rest of his teammates by providing a spark. Clune is not afraid to stand up for his teammates, and he’s not afraid to drop the gloves when he feels it’s necessary. However, he shies away from being labeled as an enforcer.
“I don’t know about that word ‘enforcer’. When you think of an enforcer you think of a pretty big heavyweight, but that being said, I’ll stand up for my teammates,” Clune said.
Clune is pretty smart about when and who he chooses to drop the gloves with when it comes down to that. However, he’s always willing to stand up for a teammate if something happens on the ice that requires an answer on his part. Clune has found a way to stay in the NHL lineup in Nashville, where the system that Barry Trotz and the coaching staff have inserted seems to play to his strengths.
“I do pick my spots to a certain extent, but when it comes down to protecting a teammate I’ll pretty much get in there and go up against anybody. I’m just listening to the coaches. I think their system is pretty conducive to my style of play. Skating, getting on the forecheck and hitting. I think I’ve shown I can be trusted on both ends of the ice,” Clune said.
On a team that has been struggling mightily as of late, losing six of their last eight games in regulation, the Predators are going to need players like Clune to provide a spark. Clune is a player that can do that in a variety of ways, which is one of the reasons why he has managed to stay in the lineup this season.