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.
“It’s a privilege to play with those two guys, ‘Carts’ and Richards,” Clifford said.
Playing a handful of games with the Kings’ ECHL affiliate in nearby Ontario during the lockout helped Clifford diversify his game.
“I didn’t want to get into bad habits and things like that,” he said of his Inland Empire experience. ”I just wanted to stick to my game. Obviously, it’s a different game down there. I wanted to work on my game. I didn’t want to become an offensive player down there and be a dangler at the blue line. Some of the things you try down there won’t necessarily won’t up here, so I just tried to keep my focus on the NHL game instead of being the Sidney Crosby of the East Coast (Hockey League).”