|Photo by Steven Christy Photography / Oklahoma City Barons
- Brett Clark wasn't sure if he'd be given another chance in the NHL, but it was his passion for the game that kept him going.
Clark spent the 2011-12 season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, registering one goal, 15 points and 199 blocked shots in 82 games.
The Wapella, Sask. product's two-year contract ran out in the summer and was not renewed. When the 2012-13 season eventually got underway, Clark was left unemployed.
That is, until the Oilers' AHL affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons, came calling in late January.
"It was very frustrating," admitted Clark. "But I still loved the game. If I had to stay in Oklahoma City for the rest of the year, I was happy with that. Going down to OKC was a great experience, one I'll never forget. I was very excited to have been given the chance to succeed and rekindle my career."
"There were three or four teams that were interested, but I looked at the roster, looked at the situation and determined that it was the best one that fit me with some of the personnel we have here. The Oilers were extremely helpful throughout the process and made things very easy on me.
"Things worked out the way they did. You can't look back and question any of your decisions. It was the best opportunity for me."
Fives games into his one-year deal with the Wild, Clark has posted one assist and has been averaging over 15 minutes per game in ice time.
In 18 games with the Barons this season, often playing on a pairing with Oilers prospect Taylor Fedun, Clark recorded a goal and 17 points. As a 36-year-old veteran of more than 600 NHL games (mostly with the Lightning, Atlanta Thrashers and Colorado Avalanche), Clark thrived in the role as a leader.
Upon his arrival in the Sooner State, Clark, a former draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens, was named as an alternate captain to Josh Green and was immediately seen as one of the club's brightest leaders.
"It was awesome," said Clark. "With Todd Nelson and the coaching staff they have in OKC, it was easy for me to come in assume that role with the younger players. I wanted to have fun with the opportunity I was given, but I also wanted to pass along some of the things I've learned and to teach the kids to have fun out there, too.
"They've got an eager group of core guys down there and they're going to do some damage in the post-season. They're playing very well and I keep close tabs on them. They're still my team and it's nice to watch them do as well as they are right now."
The Barons have put together a 37-24-2-9 record and currently sit seventh in the AHL's Western Conference.
Meanwhile, the Wild are gunning for the Northwest Division title. Trailing the Vancouver Canucks by five points with six games left on the docket, Clark and the Wild are down to the short strokes of the 2012-13 campaign.
No matter what happens, Minnesota is playoff bound. And it's been a hell of a ride.
"I came in and missed most of the season in the NHL, so I felt I was behind the eight ball a little," said Clark, who's been in and out of the lineup but has appeared in two straight heading into Tuesday's clash vs. Edmonton. "I'll be honest, it's been a battle. But we have a great, great group of guys here that have made it easy to come in and compete every day.
"We've got a lot of work ahead of us yet, but we're excited about what we can do."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick