NY Islanders veteran F Cal Clutterbuck becomes first NHL player to "hit" milestone

Winnipeg Jets v New York Islanders
Winnipeg Jets v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The hits just keep on coming for Cal Clutterbuck.

New York Islanders veteran forward became the first player in NHL history to record 4,000 career hits on Thursday night. He entered the game against the Florida Panthers at 3,997 and reached the milestone early in the second period. This is the second major milestone for the 36-year-old this season. He played in his 1,000th career game on Nov. 22 vs. Philadelphia.

Selected in the 3rd round (72nd overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota Wild, Clutterbuck led the league with a career-high 356 hits as a rookie during the 2008-09 season and hasn't stopped. He's topped 300 hits four times, including 343 during the 2014-15 season, his most with the Islanders, who acquired him in 2013 for talented young forward Nino Niederreiter.

“He plays physical and hard, and he’s done that for the entirety of his career,” longtime linemate Casey Cizikas said back in November. “It’s definitely an accomplishment and something he should be extremely proud of.”

Clutterbuck and teammate Matt Martin are 1-2 all-time in the hit category, which has been recorded as an official stat in the league since the 2005-06 season. The volume of hits delivered during his 17 NHL seasons makes his longevity much more impressive, but it hasn't been easy. In recent years, he's battled multiple injuries that had some questioning his durability. However, remarkably, he's skated in all 72 games this season after dressing for just 59 and 49 the previous two years.

“I've dealt with some injuries just like everyone else,” Clutterbuck said before his 1,000th game. “They resolved themselves and the body kind of goes back to being what it is. I guess I'm just used to being in a certain level of pain at all times, but to me, I don’t really notice. Honestly, I feel pretty good.”

An unrestricted free agent this summer, Clutterbuck's future on Long Island is uncertain. He could choose to retire and give his body a rest and make the case why he's still able to do what he's been doing for a very long time in a very physical way.