VANCOUVER — The sound reverberated around the Saddledome on Sunday afternoon, the loud “thunk” of a door being slammed. Cal Clutterbuck was the one doing the door-slamming, coming off the ice after another fruitless shift in the middle period of an Islanders loss.
It was hard to miss. Doug Weight certainly took notice.
“And we had a good meeting in Edmonton about slamming the door,” Weight said. “He’s gotta remember that he’s a huge piece of this team, he’s a leader, and he’s also got a 19-year-old next to him who’s going to feed off what he brings.”
Two nights later in Edmonton, Clutterbuck looked more like the effective fourth-line wing of the previous two seasons. He was fast, he was physical and he created energy with Anthony Beauvillier, his teenage center, and Nikolay Kulemin.
That sort of game, even one without any points, was a long time coming for Clutterbuck. The 29-year-old has hardly had any of the signature moments he put together in 2014-15 and 2015-16, such as his late-game snipe at Madison Square Garden to beat the Rangers last March.
About the best thing he’s had going this season is the five-year, $17.5-million extension he signed in December. Entering Thursday night’s game against the Canucks, he had only one goal in the 24 games he had played since the Dec. 9 extension, and his last two months have been marred by a series of lower-body injuries that have cost him 16 games and turned him into a frustrated player and occasional door-slammer.
“What I went through was a frustrating time, and when you come back, you still have to mentally clear some hurdles,” Clutterbuck said. “I’m just used to being a certain way out there. Especially in Calgary, I felt I wasn’t performing to that standard.”
The talk with his coach was a good way to refocus. Weight said the team stats recorded nine hits for Clutterbuck in Edmonton. He still was without a point in his last 11 games, dating to Jan. 11, but it was a step in the right direction.
“He just basically said you’ve got to remind yourself you’ve been out for a good portion of time, coming into a road trip and an atmosphere where it’s playoff hockey and you’re not going to feel the same as you did before you got hurt,” Clutterbuck said. “You’ve got to take your time, pick out a couple things that can help make you effective and do them. And the rest will fall in line. It was a good chat.”
Not having Casey Cizikas, who is closer to returning from a suspected broken hand than initially thought — he suffered the injury in Detroit on Feb. 21 and was supposed to miss a month but could be back next week — hasn’t helped Clutterbuck. Beauvillier and Stephen Gionta were Clutterbuck’s linemates to start against the Canucks.
But Clutterbuck isn’t worried yet about anything other than being effective and putting the nagging injury behind him. He returned from the lower-body ailment three separate times in the last two months but didn’t finish any of those three games before fully returning in Dallas last week.
“If you break your hand and come back, you’re not really worried about breaking your hand again, you know?” he said. “I was ready twice, three times before and had issues. I was a little tentative maxing out my strides. That extra push makes a huge difference for me because I’m a straight-line type of skater. I need my speed to be effective.
“The Edmonton game was the first one where it was out of sight, out of mind. I was able to really stretch out my strides, finish checks aggressively, just get my confidence back up.”