Jeff Carter offers his thoughts about playing on a line with Kyle Clifford

Jeff Carter, a vetern forward, said new linemate Kyle Clifford benefitted from playing during the NHL lockout with the Inland Empire’s Ontario Reign. Here more from Carter about Clifford, the Kings’ resident tough guy who has found his scoring touch:

“I think it was great for him. He was here with us (skating in El Segundo) for a while before he went (to Ontario). He’s a guy you don’t have to worry about coming in, in shape and being ready to play. Maybe he played a little different role than he was here. He was used on the power play and all situations.

“I think you’ve seen his play. He’s got more confidence with and without the puck. He’s on it. He’s skating. He’s looking good. He creates a lot of room for us. I don’t know if it’s a reward or a punishment. He’s playing great. From Day 1, he’s been on his toes. He’s been making plays. He’s turning pucks over hard on the forecheck. When you do that, it’s going to get noticed, the coaches are going to notice it. He’s definitely earned his shot at playing more minutes.”

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Mike Richards talks about playing with Kings enforcer Kyle Clifford

Here’s what veteran forward Mike Richards said about having tough guy Kyle Clifford join his line and produce one goal and a team-leading five points going into Thursday night’s game against the Nashville Predators at Staples Center:

“There’s that physical presence, almost a fear factor of him on the ice. He creates a lot of space for Jeff (Carter) and I. We get a lot of loose pucks because of it, and turnovers, too, because it forces teams to act quicker than they actually will because they think they have less time with the puck. Every player in the league is aware of who you’re on the ice with. He’s got that (fighting) skill set.”

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Kings enforcer Kyle Clifford makes his mark in a very different role this season

With the Kings searching for help on left wing with Dustin Penner and Simon Gagne not performing up to expectations in the opening games of the season, coach Darryl Sutter shuffled the deck and gave tough guy Kyle Clifford a chance to play a more skillful role. Sutter teamed Clifford with Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.

Clifford,  left wing, was the Kings’ leading scorer with five points (one goal, four assists) going into Thursday’s game against the Nashville Predators at Staples Center. How unlikely was that? Well, Clifford went into his third NHL season with only 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) but a whopping 264 penalty minutes in 157 games.

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Practice report: Willie Mitchell sits, Simon Gagne feels better, Jeff Carter surfs

Wednesday’s practice report …

Kings coach Darryl Sutter said defenseman Willie Mitchell continues his recovery from offseason knee surgery despite sitting out practice for the fourth consecutive day on Wednesday. Mitchell hasn’t suffered a setback, according to Sutter, but has been doing off-ice workouts to improve his fitness.

“No, not really,” Sutter said when asked if Mitchell had a setback that’s kept him off the ice. “He’s just trying to keep it wrapped up. We’re doing as much off-ice (workouts) right now to get his fitness where it can be and, hopefully, he can jump back into practice. But there hasn’t been a setback.”

Simon Gagne, a left wing, said he feels like his old self again after he underwent offseason surgery to remove a growth in his neck. He said he noticed right away he slept better and was more well-rested the next morning. He couldn’t say whether it’s helped his game, but it sure hasn’t hurt it.

“It was two weeks where I tried to not do too much,” Gagne said of the surgery, which followed a concussion that sidelined him for most of the regular season and the playoffs. “Right after surgery, not having that thing in my neck, the first thing I noticed the way I was sleeping was better.”

Jeff Carter, a forward, revealed with a wry smile that he tried a new workout routine during the lockout. He said he tried surfing for the first time in his life, heading to the waves near the Hermosa Beach Pier for a radically different kind of exercise.

“Just went down to the Hermosa Pier and rented some boards,” Carter said. “I had no idea of what I was doing. We tried, though. No, no (it was impossible to stand up and actually surf the waves). It was fun, though.”


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Kings left wing Dustin Penner won’t sound off about his recent benching

Dustin Penner is taking a Zen-like approach to his benching.

Naturally, he’s not happy about being a healthy scratch for the last three games and quite possibly a fourth Thursday night, when the Kings play host to the Nashville Predators. He wasn’t about to sound off publicly about it when approached by reporters after Wednesday’s practice, however.

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Five things we’ve learned about the Kings after five games this season

Here’s what we know about the Kings (2-2-1) so far this season:

1. Scoring goals remains a struggle, with the power play starting the season 0 for 25 before Jeff Carter broke the skid with a timely strike in Monday’s 3-2 shootout victory over the Vancouver Canucks. The Kings need more goals from more players. They need to turn their grit and energy into tangible results. Can they do it? Sure. Will they?

2. So far, so good for goaltender Jonathan Quick, who underwent offseason back surgery but has displayed no signs of the proceedure. He’s been sharp enough to keep the Kings in each of their first five games. OK, the Chicago Blackhawks scored five goals against him, but three came on power plays, including one on a 5-on-3.

3. Injuries remain a concern during the lockout-shortened 48-game season. The Kings lost defenseman Matt Greene for about the next two to three months after he needed surgery to repair a disc in his back. Defenseman Willie Mitchell hasn’t played yet after undergoing surgery to mend torn cartilage in his right knee. It’s tested their depth.

4. The competition in the Western Conference is pretty darn good so far. The Blackhawks and he San Jose Sharks are off to scalding starts to the season. Each team is scoring at will, or so it seems, and it might be tough to make up ground in a short season. The Kings must keep pace to get a good seed for the playoffs.

5. There’s no time this season for anyone to find their groove. Ask left wing Dustin Penner, a healthy scratch for three consecutive games after going without a goal or an assist in the first two games. Penner makes for an easy target, but the fact is there’s no time to wait for a player to produce this season. Do it, or they’ll find someone else.

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Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell misses practice again

Defenseman Willie Mitchell skated before Saturday’s game against Phoenix, but didn’t take the ice Sunday or Monday. Sutter wouldn’t say if Mitchell suffered another setback in his comeback from surgery early last month to mend torn meniscus in his right knee.

The Kings have been shorthanded on the blue line, with Mitchell sidelined for the lockout-shortened training camp and the first five games of the season and Matt Greene expected to be out for two months or more after undergoing back surgery last week.

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Is winger Dustin Penner in Kings coach Darryl Sutter’s doghouse already?

Dustin Penner skated and skated and skated some more Monday morning at the Kings’ El Segundo practice facility. Brad Richardson and Andrew Bodnarchuk joined him for a lengthy post-morning skate workout after their teammates left the ice.

It sure looked like Penner would be scratched for the third consecutive game, but Kings coach Darryl Sutter would only say, “Be there for the song,” when asked if he would ice the same lineup Monday against the Vancouver Canucks as during Saturday’s victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.

That lineup did not include Penner, a left wing who had no goals or assists in season-opening losses to the Chicago Blackhawks and the Colorado Avalanche before finding himself scratched for an overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers and a victory over the Coyotes.

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Anze Kopitar activated; Matt Greene out with a herniated disc in his back

The Kings activated center Anze Kopitar on Tuesday and will insert him into their lineup for their game against the Colorado Avalanche. Kopitar did not play in the season-opening 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday because of a sprained knee.

To make room for Kopitar on the roster, the Kings sent forward Anthony Stewart to Manchester (N.H.) of the American Hockey League after he cleared waivers. Stewart did not play Saturday, the odd-man out in a crowded lineup of grinding forwards..

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Matt Greene update … and it’s not good news for the Kings’ defenseman

Matt Greene suffered a back injury Saturday that could sidelined him for the rest of the season, according to a report Monday afternoon on the website of the Canadian sports network TSN. The Kings issued a news release that indicated only that the veteran defenseman suffered a mid-body injury and would be placed on injured reserve.

Defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk was recalled from Manchester (N.H.) of the AHL.

The Kings begin a three-game trip Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver.

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