Earlier, I alluded to Rich Clune’s strong performance during the pre-camp fitness testing, and the lifestyle changes that have led to him being recognized as one of the most improved players in camp, in terms of fitness.

Clune talked about the changes he has made, and his desire to make the team, and not just as an “energy” type player. Clune wants to contribute offensively as well, and the ability to play a well-rounded game might make him stand out in what figures to be a tight competition for fourth-line roles.

If Kevin Westgarth already has one spot nailed down, and if the Kings seem prepared to start out Brad Richardson in a fourth-line role, that leaves Clune in a race with players such as Trevor Lewis, Oscar Moller, Brayden Schenn and Andrei Loktionov, among others, for a regular spot in the lineup. Last season, Clune was a midseason call-up who had two assists in 14 games.

The bread and butter of Clune’s game remains his ability to skate well and irritate opponents. If Clune can be tough to play against, and draw more penalties than he takes, he will be a valuable player. Here’s what he had to say about his summer and his hopes for this season…

Question: Guys have talked about your improved conditioning. What did you do this summer?

CLUNE: “I took quite a bit of time off — about five or six weeks — and just cleared my head and kind of flushed everything out of my mind. The last three years has been a bit of a challenge for me, finding my way in pro hockey, and it has really taught me a lot about myself. Coming out of junior, I was just like any other kid, a little bit overwhelmed, and I have really taken an interest in nutrition and off-ice training. I really executed that this summer and kind of took my game to a new level.”

Question: What kind of diet have you been on?

CLUNE: “It’s not so much dieting. It’s just a lifestyle change. I’ve hooked up with some great people back home. (Strength coach) Tim Adams, it’s a blessing that we have him. We’re very fortunate to have him on our staff, and I have just listened to what he has taught me. It’s one thing to know something. It’s another thing to do it. Eating right, and getting the protein in you, and carbohydrates and all that, there’s a science behind it, and I’ve just tried following it.”

Question: Is that something you got away from, going back to your days with the Dallas Stars?

CLUNE: “When I was really young, I worked very hard. At 14, 15, 16, I was a really focused kid. My parents had me in private school, and when I sort of got out into the `real world,’ I might have lost some of that structure. It has taken trial and error to find that. At 23, I really feel I have a good routine going, and I’m focused and centered.”

Question: What will you typically have for breakfast, for instance?

CLUNE: “I’ll have some sort of animal protein, steak, ground beef, chicken, any kind of wild beef, whatever I can get. Then you have your starchy carb, like oatmeal or sweet potato. If you wanted, you could put brown rice in there. You just don’t want to have cereal, and that’s it. There’s a whole science behind how your body digests things. Get some fruit in you. You basically want to have three dinners a day, and two small snacks. It might seem a little bit weird to some people, but once you get in that routine, I’ve seen my body change in five months.”

Question: What do you think you have to do in order to earn a spot on this team?

CLUNE: “I’ve got to be on top of my game, provide a spark and chip in offensively. The way the game is these days, four lines that can put the puck in the net are deadly. There’s no reason why I can’t contribute secondary scoring to this team. I’ve done it in the past and I’ve shown flashes of it in pro. Now is the time for me to step up. And then obviously that nasty edge. If there’s one thing I can bring that I don’t think anyone else really has here, it’s that attitude and that edge. There isn’t anyone who can dial it up to the level I can dial it up, and when I’m in shape, I think I’m going to be a pretty effective player.”

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