Rich Clune, picked up on waivers prior to the start of the season on January 15th, has slowly become one of Nashville’s more finely tuned spark-plugs as the Predators reach the midway point of the season. On a night where the Oilers would come in and leave with a 6-0 loss, Clune would find himself in the middle of all of the action.
Beginning in the starting lineup on a line with Paul Gaustad and Sergei Kostitsyn, Clune found it to be an honor but more of the coaching staff switching things around.
“Whenever you’re called upon to start a game, it’s always a compliment. But I think it was just to switch things up, for whatever reason,” said Clune. “Coach knows what he’s getting out of our line. We’re going to get the puck in, work hard, cycle it, crash the net, and it was just a bit about shuffling the deck.”
Nashville would take a 1-0 lead on a powerplay goal only 6:07 into the first period. Two seconds later off the faceoff, Clune and Oilers forward Mike Brown dropped the gloves for Clune’s first fight sans jaw protector and first since February 10th against Chicago.
“Everyone knows who [Brown] is, pretty tough guy and a pretty good fighter. I’m a tough kid, I’ll step in there with anyone obviously,” said Predators forward Rich Clune. “He beat me in the fight, but that was more of a statement, trying to get our fans into the game and let the boys know I’m here to battle for them. He challenged me and I obliged him.”
Clune has been one of the brighter spots for the Nashville Predators over their past handful of games. Grabbing two points in his four previous games prior to tonight’s contest against Edmonton, he seems to find himself grinding out plays in the tough areas and causing a bit of disruption on the ice.
Usually a job saved for Jordin Tootoo in years past, Rich Clune has taken that mantle and molded it into a form of his own, recording his third point in five games with his 2nd goal of the season tonight.
“I think the more I play, the more the pucks are dropping. I was a little frustrated after scoring my first goal, I was getting chances but the puck wasn’t going in. I think everyone has been feeling like that. It’s nice to get a few pucks to drop. We have to keep working hard and keeping it simple,” said Clune.
Yet, even after a dominating 6-0 performance against a reeling Oilers team mired in a now 1-4-2 slump, tonight’s momentum can only be used as a stepping stone forward. However, can the players “dump and chase” the great feeling’s away and reset for tomorrow night?
“We’re not going to get too high here. We’re just coming off a tough part of the season and we want to stay hungry. We want to flush tonight, enjoy it a bit, but reset for tomorrow and come out with another good effort,” said Clune.
While the words are clear and the effort was there tonight, Nashville finds itself needing to duplicate the same performance tomorrow night against Minnesota and the return of Ryan Suter. Clune’s gameplay is what the Predators need going forward. Setting an example and working hard is why he is finding himself in the starting lineup, notching points, and recording 10+ minutes of ice time a game.
Far stretch from the beginning of the season when the fan base couldn’t grasp the reasons as to why Clune was picked up, however Trotz and Poile both spoke highly of him after the waiver claim. With Clune finding the right stride and bringing that high energy level night in and night out, the Predators can ill-afford right now to lose the intangibles he brings to the ice every game.