Cal Clutterbuck tries not to look back.
“You kind of realize how much time has really gone by, looking in the rearview mirror,” the scrappy right wing said.
Yet Clutterbuck has never tried to look too far ahead, either. For instance, earlier in his NHL career, he never could have imagined reaching 800 games.
Clutterbuck, who will turn 32 on Nov. 18, reached that milestone as the Islanders topped the Sabres, 1-0, on Saturday night in Buffalo. It was their ninth straight victory, matching their longest single-season winning streak since Dec. 31, 1989, to Jan. 19, 1990.
“I think this is the first one where I was feeling like it was kind of an accomplishment,” Clutterbuck said Saturday. “It’s been almost a decade and a half in the making. Quite frankly, 13, 15 years ago, I probably would’ve never envisioned getting 800 in the league. Just still being here and trying to contribute is something to be proud of for me.”
Clutterbuck, in his seventh season with the Islanders, has two assists this season. He has 117 goals, 114 assists and 610 penalty minutes in his NHL career after being selected by the Wild in the third round of the 2006 draft.
Much of Clutterbuck’s time with the Islanders has been spent on an identity-setting line with center Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin — once dubbed the best fourth line in the NHL — but the trio has been together for only five games this season. Cizikas missed five games with a lower-body injury and Martin is out four to six weeks with a left leg issue.
Clutterbuck has dressed for all 13 games despite requiring offseason back surgery to repair nerve damage as well as other issues. Before surgery, there was some doubt about his playing future.
“It was my first surgery and a tough place to have it for your first one,” he said. “That’s probably what I’m most proud of, just mentally putting up with the [stuff] I was dealing with last year.”
Clutterbuck is in the third season of a five-year, $17.5 million deal. If he remains healthy, he will approach 1,000 games before the end of this contract.
“I’ve always thought of 1,000. I think everybody does,” he said. “But not too much. You don’t want to get hung up on lofty goals. There’s so much that goes on day to day. That’s sort of a distant goal.”
Notes & quotes: The Islanders reassigned Otto Koivula to their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport after the 21-year-old Finnish forward was a healthy scratch for both games of his first NHL call-up. It’s a decent sign that forward Leo Komarov, who has missed six games because of illness, is close to resuming practice with the team . . . The Islanders (10-3-0), who were off on Sunday, will face the Senators on Tuesday night at Barclays Center, the first of three straight games in Brooklyn and their first game of the season at their other home rink. Five of the Islanders’ seven home games this month are in Brooklyn.