Kings coach Darryl Sutter wouldn’t come out and say winger Kyle Clifford would play in Game 4 against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. Sutter did say everyone on the ice for Monday’s practice in El Segundo was available to play. Clifford was on the ice, so he is available to play. See how that works? Clifford, who is scoreless in five games while playing an average of about 9 1/2 minutes, suffered a shoulder injury during the Kings’ first-round victory over the St. Louis Blues and hasn’t played in the second round.
Kyle Clifford skated with a large group of call-ups from the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs for the third day. But Kings coach Darryl Sutter said Clifford hasn’t been cleared for contact. Clifford has sat out the last three games, including the first two of the Kings’ second-round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks, because of an upper-body injury.
Here’s coach Darryl Sutter’s explanation for enforcer Kyle Clifford’s absence from the Kings’ morning skate Friday at Staples Center: “He was out there. He gets here before you guys. Then he did a Geico commercial. Then he was doing the weather for Channel 4 this morning, up in the helicopter.” Sutter said more seriously: “He had a maintenance day.”
The Kings won’t have team captain Dustin Brown when they face the San Jose Sharks in the regular-season finale Saturday night at Staples Center. Brown will serve the second game of a two-game suspension from the NHL for elbowing Jason Pominville of the Minnesota Wild during the Kings’ loss Tuesday. Brown is eligible to return for Game 1 of the playoffs next week. Until then, the Kings will be shorthanded.
The Columbus Blue Jackets weren’t happy to see their five-game winning streak end with a 2-1 loss to the Kings on Thursday night at Staples Center. The Kings weren’t thrilled with the end of the game, when the Blue Jackets’ Brandon Dubinsky took what they believed to be a few liberties with defenseman Drew Doughty after the final buzzer. TV replays indicated Doughty initiated the confrontation with a punch as Dubinsky had his back turned. Dubinsky then threw a series of punches at Doughty, drawing a match penalty.
“Just a cheap shot, and that’s his personality” Kings enforcer Kyle Clifford said of Dubinsky’s actions. “We’ve got guys out there and he goes after Doughty, who’s not our toughest player, not the smartest thing. But we got the win.”
The Kings scratched 20-year-old rookie Tyler Toffoli and Jordan Nolan returned to the lineup for Thursday’s game against the Dallas Stars at Staples Center. Nolan generated a quality scoring chance, cutting through the Stars’ defense and unleashing a shot from the slot that Kari Lehtonen had to be sharp to handle. Kyle Clifford had another good scoring opportunity for the Kings, breaking ahead of the pack on a shorthanded bid in the closing seconds of the opening period. The Kings outshot the Stars 12-5.
Tyler Toffoli made a quite an auspicious NHL debut. Kyle Clifford scored two goals in a game for the first time in his career and also got into a fight, his more familiar method of operation. The Kings chased San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi in the second period.
All of which propelled the Kings to a commanding 5-2 victory Saturday night in their Staples Center homecoming after losing to the Sharks 4-3 on Thursday night in San Jose and by 5-2 to the Phoenix Coyotes in Glendale, Ariz., on Tuesday.
The Kings had a few moments of uncertainty and indecision in their rematch with the Sharks, but for the most part they took the game to the visitors. They led 2-0 by the end of the first period and then by 5-1 going into the third, showing their strength in all the right ways.
Toffoli, a 20-year-old forward who scored 28 goals in his first 55 minor-league games, skated his first NHL shifts alongside veterans Jeff Carter and Mike Richards and didn’t look out of place in his much-anticipated and long-awaited debut with the Kings.
Clifford gave the Kings a 1-0 lead with a shot from a difficult angle from the right wing only 2 minutes, 27 seconds into the game. Justin Williams then banked a centering pass intended for Dustin Brown off the rear end of retreating Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart for a 2-0 lead at 12:19.
It looked like it might be a long night for Niemi, who was under siege from the opening minutes. Niemi made several excellent saves in the first period or the Kings might have led by three or four goals before the first intermission.
Patrick Marleau needed only 35 seconds to take all the momentum away from the Kings, scoring after teammate Joe Thornton’s shot struck the skate off a King and landed on Marleau’s stick. The good times didn’t last for the Sharks, although they had a great chance to tie the score at 2.
Toffoli chopped the stick of San Jose’s Tommy Wingels into kindling on a partial breakaway at 7:58 of the second period. Goaltender Jonathan Bernier gloved Wingels’ penalty shot, calmly preserving the Kings’ 2-1 lead.
It didn’t stay that way for long, however.
Jarret Stoll shoveled a rebound past Niemi to give the Kings a 3-1 lead at 11:15 of the middle period. Clifford jammed a rebound of a Dustin Penner shot past Niemi to make it 4-1 and force Sharks coach Todd McLellan to pull his starter in favor of backup Alex Stalock.
Dwight King then beat Stalock, making only his third NHL appearance, for his third goal of the season to extend the Kings’ lead to 5-1 with a little more than a minute left in what turned out to be a disastrous second period for San Jose.
The Sharks didn’t exactly go down without a fight. Hulking defenseman Douglas Murray fought an extended battle with Clifford only moments after Marleau’s goal. The two traded a number of punches before Clifford scored a crowd-pleasing takedown.
It left Clifford only an assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick.
Patrick Marleau scored for the Sharks to cut the Kings’ lead to 2-1 only 35 seconds into the second period. Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier stopped Tommy Wingels on a penalty shot at 7:58 of the second after rookie Tyler Toffoli slashed Wingles’ stick in half on a partial breakaway. The Kings then took command with goals from Jarret Stoll, Kyle Clifford (his second of the game) and Dwight King to make it 5-1 going into the third. It was Clifford’s first multi-goal game of his career.
Kyle Clifford scored only 2 minutes, 27 seconds into the game, and Justin Williams banked in a second goal at 12:19 of the opening period as the Kings dominated play against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night at Staples Center. The Kings outshot the Sharks 12-5. The score would have been far more onesided if not for the play of San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi, who made several excellent saves in the first. Rookie forward Tyler Toffoli made his NHL debut for the Kings and just missed scoring his first goal on a charge to the net. Jeff Carter set him up with a superb pass from the left wing, but Toffoli couldn’t convert late in the period. Toffoli had a team-leading 28 goals in 55 games with the Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs of the American Hockey League. He played 4:19 in the opening period, skating six shifts.
The Kings and the St. Louis Blues played an eventful first period Tuesday night at Staples Center. The Blues took a 2-1 lead on goals from Alex Pietrangelo and Vladimir Sobotka and skated as if on a mission. They also were willing to drop the gloves and engage the Kings, who swept them from the playoffs last spring. There were three fights in the first period, including a clear decision for the Kings’ Kyle Clifford over the Blues’ Roman Polak. Rookie defenseman Jake Muzzin scored the Kings’ lone goal in the opening period.