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Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck

Jeff Roberson, Associated Press

Rule cramping Clutterbuck's style

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • October 14, 2011 - 11:41 AM

Cal Clutterbuck has led the NHL in hits in each of his first three seasons, but he'll be hard-pressed to do it a fourth if a certain trend continues.

With the league cracking down on boarding, the Wild winger said a byproduct has been players intentionally facing the glass in an attempt to either draw a power play or not get hit.

Even though Clutterbuck has 14 hits in four games, he has more than once held up on checks because players have done this.

"Guys are abusing the rule in the wrong kind of way and purposely putting themselves in vulnerable positions," Clutterbuck said. "You should never turn your back when you know someone's coming to hit you. It's the stupidest thing you could ever do. The league's got to look at this."

Tuesday in Ottawa, Clutterbuck had to hit the brakes when veteran Milan Michalek did just that. Clutterbuck flipped his lid and could be seen screaming at him.

"He turned right into the glass," Clutterbuck said. "I'm not going to take a chance if a guy's going to put his numbers at me. It's frustrating, but not frustrating to the point where it's going to ruin my game. If somebody wants to turn their back, I guess it's just as effective as me hitting them because they're not moving forward, they're not in the play.

"If a hit's there, I'm going to take it. If it's not there, I'm not going to take it. I'm not just going to hit a guy because I need to get a registered hit. I'm playing the game to be effective."

Still, Clutterbuck said: "It ticks me off. It bothers me. But it'll get to the point where I get my timing back and I'll be a step ahead and those hits are going to be finished."

Cullen standing out

Matt Cullen is silencing calls by some fans for Kyle Brodziak to be the Wild's second-line center.

Cullen scored his third goal in four games during Thursday's 2-1 shootout win over Edmonton, and that doesn't include two shootout goals in consecutive games.

Cullen scored 12 goals last season and none over the season's final 24 games. His three even-strength goals match last year's total in 78 games.

"His speed is really something where I think, if we're executing the right way, we can do a lot for him and vice versa," coach Mike Yeo said. "His speed has been a real factor in the early part."

Cullen's goal Thursday was a beauty. He skated into the zone on a 2-on-1, inching, inching close to the cage. Using pinching-in defensive defenseman Clayton Stoner as a decoy, Cullen simply sniped it over Nikolai Khabibulin's glove from 15 feet away.

"I told [Stoner] there was no way he was getting [the puck]," Cullen said, laughing.

Etc.

• Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brad Staubitz returned from suspensions Thursday. To make room, Nick Johnson and Matt Kassian were scratched. Bouchard had two shots, and Staubitz drew two penalties.

• Josh Harding has still not started a game. With no back-to-back situations until next month, Yeo said, "I don't want him sitting on the bench for three weeks, ... so in the very near future" he'll start.

• Oft-injured Oilers winger Ales Hemsky, who has chronic shoulder problems, left the game in the first period with a shoulder injury.

• Guillaume Latendresse has three assists in four games -- all on Cullen goals.

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