Wild pest delivers bang for 'buck

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

ST. PAUL -- Cal Clutterbuck knows his job.

Clutterbuck is well aware the description is to be a player nobody involved with the opposition -- players, fans, coaches -- has a kind word to say about him.

And that all the love will come from the hometown. At least, as long as he's wearing the right sweater.

"I'm pretty used to having fans solely on the team I play for," the Minnesota Wild right-winger said yesterday. "That's been a recurring thing. I started in Toronto in juniors, and when I was traded to Oshawa, the Toronto fans turned on me and the Oshawa fans went the other way."

It doesn't take long to see why he's a player you love to have on your team and hate when he's playing for the other guys.

Clutterbuck is an agitator in the purest sense. He hits relentlessly, like that annoying fly that you try swat away but keeps buzzing around.

The NHL's hits stat may be dubious considering the distinction of a hit can change from rink to rink, but Clutterbuck is the league's top crasher -- with 218 hits officially going into last night's clash with the Flames.

He makes no apologies for sending his body, listed as 5-foot-10 and 196 lb., into everyone wearing the opposing jersey.

"He's got a lot of heart," said Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard. "You wish everybody on your team would have it like him. He plays like he's 6-3 or 6-4 and it's awesome."

Can't help but wonder whether Boogaard would feel the same if he had to face Clutterbuck.

Clutterbuck knows not many who are on the other side love him much.

He hears the words from the opposition time and time again, and the fans, although nothing he worth remembering.

"Maybe too many are yelling at once, so it's hard to make out what they're saying," he said with a grin. "They make fun of my last name, which is totally unoriginal.

"Don Cherry beat them to the punch."

Cherry referred to him as "Buttercup" after he fought Ian White and didn't take off his helmet and visor, although Clutterbuck pointed out White came at him and didn't give him time to take it off.

But that's not the attention sought by the player drafted 72nd overall in 2006, who has collected eight goals and three assists in his rookie season.

He'd rather be known for being a solid player, willing to do what it takes to win.

For him, that means distracting opponents.

"If you can get somebody focused on one player on the other team, even for a little bit, they're not thinking as much about the game as they would be," he said. "If they're going to expend energy, it might as well be on something other than trying to beat us. Then I've done my job, I guess."

He proudly point out he doesn't annoy with his mouth in the way other agitators, such as Steve Ott, do.

"If somebody says something to me, I might return a line or two, but it's not like I'm going to skate by a bench and incite the whole team," Clutterbuck said. "I find that stuff just gives them motivation to turn around and beat me and the team and makes it that much sweeter for them. Physical play is part of the game.

"If you're chirping a guy back and forth and he scores a goal, you look like an idiot. If you hit somebody and he scores a goal, you come back and hit him again.

"I'll stick to the physical stuff."

You can't help but wonder whether others get under his skin.

"No. I think it's funny," he said. "The more they try, the funnier it is to me. I just smirk and skate away."


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