CALGARY, ALBERTA - Cal Clutterbuck could barely put weight on his left leg Friday and left the Saddledome on crutches, but considering what could have been, the Wild winger is very lucky.
Despite intense pain initially, Clutterbuck avoided a serious knee injury. He has been diagnosed with a thigh contusion after getting kneed by young Oilers star Taylor Hall late in Thursday's Wild win over Edmonton.
The Oilers' X-ray machine didn't work, according to the Wild, so Clutterbuck will need to be evaluated by Wild doctors once the team returns to Minnesota on Sunday to make certain there's no further damage to his knee or leg.
"We're thinking it's above the knee [though]," coach Mike Yeo said.
Clutterbuck has been ruled out for Saturday night's game against the Calgary Flames. Because the Wild (4-1-1 in its past six) wanted a right-shot winger to replace Clutterbuck, it reassigned rookie Johan Larsson and recalled rookie Charlie Coyle, who impressed during a recent five-game callup.
Hall, 21, the first overall pick in the 2010 draft who also broke Jonas Brodin's clavicle in the minors in November, was suspended two games by the NHL for kneeing. He lost $9,729.72 in salary.
"Although this play happens quickly, Hall is in control of himself and in control of this hit," NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan said in a Department of Player Safety video. "He makes the decision to step up and deliver a low check on a player who is not engaged with him whatsoever."
Shanahan added that another contributing factor was that Clutterbuck did not possess the puck or "have any reasonable expectation of contact."
Clutterbuck called the center-ice hit "a little reckless."
"I've been in that situation a lot of times personally, and I know there's a fine line between milliseconds and split seconds," Clutterbuck said. "Personally, I probably wouldn't put myself in that situation. But he made a decision. He was probably a little frustrated with the way the game was going."
Clutterbuck, in his fifth full season, led the NHL in hits his first three seasons and ranks 14th this season with 49 in 16 games.
For somebody so physical, he never has been suspended, let alone fined. For a player that's registered 1,347 hits, Clutterbuck has gotten two warnings in his career.
Yet, some fans and media members paint Clutterbuck as if he is a renowned head/knee hunter and contend that if he is going to play a reckless game, it should almost be condoned when he's the recipient of a reckless hit.
"Show me a reckless play that I've created," Clutterbuck said. "I don't agree with that. That's just people's perception. It's unfortunate, but I'm a big boy."
Because of Clutterbuck's physical nature, it does seem as if opposing players target him. In Edmonton last year, Ryan Whitney also kneed Clutterbuck. That, too, resulted in a charleyhorse. Columbus' James Wisniewski was suspended eight games last year for a head shot on Clutterbuck, while two years ago the Islanders' Trevor Gillies was suspended 10 games for a head shot.
"People don't like getting hit. I don't like getting hit," Clutterbuck said. "That tends to frustrate people and when you get frustrated, you kind of do things that are maybe out of your character and you see red a little bit.
"I understand that being as physical as I am, that can cause frustration in other people, and that's part of the reason I'm effective. I've expected that my whole career."
Clutterbuck has sustained a number of thigh contusions in his career, including two last year.
"These things are so unpredictable," he said. "I've had a couple that seemed really bad and they cleared up quickly, and I have had some that seemed not so bad and have lingered a long time. I'm going to take it day to day."