Fun, frivolity -- and a Kings game too
There was a great atmosphere at the Kings’ morning skate Saturday in El Segundo, with players wearing mullet wigs in honor of the formerly mulled Ryan Smyth, who will play his 1,000th NHL game Saturday night.
Smyth (pictured at left before Saturday night's game) was surprised by the gesture — and thoroughly confused for a moment when teammate
started calling everyone “Smitty.”
But he appreciated the gesture and the prospect of seeing 50 to 60 friends and relatives come to town for the game. The Kings and the NHL will honor him in a pregame ceremony next Thursday.
“It’s a special moment for me,” he said.
We’ll have more later on Smyth, who shows no signs of fading as he reaches his milestone.
There’s also a game to be played, and a fairly important game it is for the Kings, who are 5-0-0 at home this season but have been beaten by the Predators five straight times at home.
“They’re a fast team. They’ve always shown the puck tenacity. They’re on it quickly. They’re over top of you,” Coach Terry Murray said. “If you make one error with a pass they’re going to hunt you down and make you pay the price, whether it’s a goal or a great scoring chance.
The Kings will start Jonathan Bernier in goal and will make another change, on the fourth line. Trevor Lewis is out and rugged Kyle Clifford is on, on the left side with Brad Richardson and enforcer Kevin Westgarth.
This will be Clifford’s ninth game, the most he can play before the Kings must decide whether to keep him or return him to his junior team. Fellow rookie Brayden Schenn has played eight games.
Murray said he liked Clifford’s performance in a limited role — 6 minutes 21 seconds of ice time — in the Kings’ 1-0 victory over Tampa Bay on Thursday.
“I thought he had an impact in the hockey game. He’s in on the forecheck, he’s there ready to battle for his team. He’s on the bench, he’s very alive,” Murray said. “He’s not the quiet guy you see in the dressing room. He’s very involved in the emotional part of it and I like that. I think it’s an important ingredient to bring. He brings a lot of energy to your team and he’s willing to support any teammate that gets into any kind of trouble.”
Murray said he and General Manager Dean Lombardi haven’t made a final decision on Clifford and Schenn, but that day must come in the next few days. After Saturday, the Kings’ next game is next Thursday against Dallas at Staples Center.
Murray also said he was pleased with Scott Parse’s efforts Thursday in the left wing’s first game since recovering from a groin problem. Parse will remain on the first line, with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.
“I would like to hope that line can develop some chemistry quickly and see some results from Parse in particular,” Murray said. “I know he’s a guy who can bring some offense to our hockey club. And that’s why we liked him at the end of last year because of those high-end plays that he can make.”
More later at www.latimes.com/sports
-- Helene Elliott
Photo credit: Victor Decolongon / Getty Images