PITTSBURGH — Since Cal Clutterbuck went down with a long-term injury on Jan. 19, he had yet to join his New York Islanders teammates on the road.
Despite being out indefinitely with his lower-body injury, Cal Clutterbuck took the trip to Pittsburgh and joined his teammates on the ice Thursday morning ahead of the pivotal game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
And to say his teammates were glad to have him around again would be an understatement.
“It’s awesome to have him with us here on the road and have him back on the ice,” Anders Lee said. “It’s always great. He’s a veteran guy who brings a ton of leadership and has a very big presence in the room. So it’s really great to have him around.
“It’s nice to have him around again, more often. We see him obviously day to day at the rink, but just on the road and stuff like this, it’s always great.”
Linemate Casey Cizikas understood how hard this season was for him and how good it must feel for him to be back in the room.
“Definitely hasn’t been an easy go for him so far this year, but he’s done everything that he’s been asked of, and to see him here on the ice with us it’s definitely big,” Casey Cizikas told NYI Hockey Now. “And I know it’s exciting for him. I’ve been in that position before.
[When] you’re away from the team, you feel like you’re not a part of it, you’re not skating with us, and to be out there, it just gives you an extra boost of energy, and it’s great morale for the team in here.”
Hudson Fasching, Clutterbuck’s replacement, told NYI Hockey Now that the veteran has been helpful to him and has been a calming voice in the room.
“We joke more than anything, but, I mean, he’s been helpful,” Fasching said. “He’s such a veteran guy and just such a good leader. I think, more than anything, he keeps you calm and keeps you relaxed in the room.
“And it’s not necessarily about pointers and tips here and there, but just to be relaxed playing with Martin and Cizikas.”
Clutterbuck’s been out hurt since before Bo Horvat arrived, but even the new Islander understands his importance in the room.
“Obviously, he hasn’t been around as much as he’s liked to be,” Horvat told NYI Hockey Now. “I mean, just talking to him, obviously, a big character guy in the room. He respects me. I respect him as a player and as a person, so yeah, looking forward to him getting back in the lineup and getting to know him a little bit more.”
Matt Martin is happy to have the king of jokes back around.
“He’s definitely a jokester. Likes to stir the pot a little bit,” Martin said. “I’d say that’s the majority of our dressing room, to be honest with you. We have a close group that likes to get on one another a little bit, so it’s always in good fun.”
Because Cal Clutterbuck is on Injured Reserve, the media is not allowed to talk to him. As of now, there is no timetable for his return, Thursday being his first time back on the ice since the injury.
As for what Islanders head coach Lane Lambert will do when Clutterbuck is ready to go, given how well Fasching has played in his spot and other call-ups, he had this to say.
“They’re good problems to have, so to speak. So you know we’ll do what’s best for the group and go from there.”