After suiting up for his first game as a Pittsburgh Penguin for a 2-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 15, Adam Clendening was a healthy scratch until the Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Minnesota Wild on Nov. 17.
With over a month between games, Clendening had some time to get a look at the game from the press box, which prepared him for his next opportunity in the lineup.
“It looks a lot easier from up top than it actually is,” Clendening said. “You do have a little bit more time than you think, that’s what I got out of it. The quicker you move the puck, the easier the game is.”
That quick puck movement is what head coach Mike Johnston has liked about the 23-year-old defenseman in his last three games.
“Adam’s a really smart player who makes good outlet passes,” Johnston said. “He hasn’t had a great body of work with us, but I really like his puck movement out of our zone.”
Clendening’s offensive contributions should come as no surprise. In his first two seasons with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League, he totaled 21 goals and 105 points, earning him two AHL All-Star nominations.
“I think the big thing for me is moving the puck fast and keeping it simple and joining the rush,” Clendening said. “The offense is always there in my game. It fits well with the style of the guys up front – wanting to make plays and have the defense join the rush. I kind of just played my game.”
Make no mistake, Clendening isn’t all offense. The Niagara Falls, New York native knows what comes first in the big leagues.
“It’s much harder to defend in this league than it is in the minors,” Clendening said. “Guys are just faster, bigger, stronger, smarter, more skilled. The easier it is for me defend in this league, the more I can play to my strengths with offense and moving the puck.”
It’s amazing how quickly Clendening has been able to adjust and contribute after being a healthy scratch for 13 games. But his defensive partner Ian Cole didn’t expect anything less.
“It seems like people are surprised,” Cole said. “His ability to step in and play at an NHL level is not surprising to any of us in here. We all know he’s a really good hockey player.”