5FW Originals: Predators’ Clune Discusses Enforcer Role

Nashville Predators forward Rich Clune (Photo: NHLPA)

Nashville Predators forward Rich Clune (Photo: NHLPA)

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Even if you knew very little about hockey, it would only take a quick glance around the visiting locker room at Nassau Coliseum to not only find Nashville Predators Rich Clune, but understand what role he played.

The 26-year-old sat quietly in the back right corner of the room, but the stitches in his face and bruising around his right eye were plenty loud.  Nashville’s enforcer was still showing the effects of a Friday night fight against Winnipeg’s Adam Pardy, one in which he was cut on the first punch.  Just part of the job, right?

“It’s not difficult,” said Clune, when asked how challenging it is to be expecting to fill the role he does.

“It’s not something that I lose sleep over, that’s for sure.  I’ve played hard my life.  At this level, you’re getting paid a lot of money.”

Clune signed a 2-year, $1.7 million contract this off-season.  The expectations are primarily for penalty minutes, with the hope that he’ll chip in a handful of goals and assists every year as well; he posted a 4-5-9 line in 47 games last season.  But back to those PIM’s?  Clune had some interesting thoughts on just how he accumulates them.

“It can be a little bit mechanical, as far as you feel like you have to generate something,” he said.  “The one thing I don’t like about it is at times, I’m not exactly mad out there.  It’s kind of a skill, to try to fight.  If I actually got mad, that’s when I usually fight a lot better.  But surprisingly, I have a long fuse.  A lot of it’s kind of manufactured out there.”

So is there way, then, to manufacture the anger necessary to do the job at the top level?

“Just being on the other team is enough for me, seeing a guy in a different jersey,” he said.

This marks Clune’s second full season in the NHL.  He was claimed on waivers by Nashville after the lockout ended, which ended a 4 1/2 year stay in the Los Angeles Kings organization, for whom he got into 14 NHL games during the 2009-10 season.  The Toronto native says he’s been able to learn a lot from Eric Nystrom — who was quite popular this morning given his father’s role in the Islanders dynasty days — and how he plays the game.

“We’re not exactly similar, but I like the brand of hockey he plays,” Clune said.  “He’s pretty consistent, and he’s a physical guy.  He doesn’t go looking for fights or anything, but if it happens, it happens.  I just like the way he plays…he works hard, he skates hard, he goes into the corners and he goes to net and shoots the puck.  He plays the game the way it should be played, and I think I’m capable of doing that.  I’ve just got to keep working.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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