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Kings' morning skate: Mitchell, Greene out; Richardson and Sturm could play soon

December 18, 2010 | 12:59 pm

Greetings from Nashville, where it’s sunny but chilly -- about 35 degrees -- and music is pouring out of every honky-tonk on Broadway. Gotta love it here. Someone singing in one of these places at noon on a Saturday could be a Grammy award winner in a few years …

The Kings weren’t singing any sad songs Saturday. Actually, Coach Terry Murray had some good news after the morning skate at Bridgestone Arena.

Murray said forward Brad Richardson, who's been out since Dec. 9 because of an upper-body injury, has been cleared to return. He was scheduled to skate in El Segundo Saturday and meet the team Sunday in Chicago. He might play against the Blackhawks, but Tuesday’s game at Colorado seems more likely.

“As soon as he comes in we’ll have a talk,” Murray said of Richardson, who can play center or the wing and is valuable for his speed and energy. “If he doesn’t get in, we’ll get him in the next game.”

Murray also said left wing Marco Sturm might make his season and Kings debut Tuesday against the Avalanche and will leave it up to Sturm to determine when he’s ready.

“I think when a player’s going through that kind of an injury he’s the player that has to make that step,” Murray said. “It’s a hurdle and once he makes the decision to go then that’s a huge decision, and he’ll feel more comfortable after the first game.”

But the Kings won’t have defensemen Matt Greene (upper body) and Willie Mitchell (lower body) Saturday against the plucky Predators.

Facing the Predators without a full lineup would be a challenge -- Nashville has won five straight and is 8-0-2 in its last 10 -- but the Kings will also have to overcome the loss of two muscular players off their blue line.

“It is what it is in the game. You’re going to have them. You’ve got to move on,” Murray said of the injuries. “It’s an opportunity for some other guys and some young guys need to step up and grab a hold of it.”

One youngster who has capitalized on his chances is rugged left wing Kyle Clifford, who has moved up from the fourth line to the third alongside Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds. He played there a lot on Thursday and will stay there Saturday. He replaces Alexei Ponikarovsky, who moved into Murray’s doghouse during Thursday’s 6-4 loss at St. Louis and will be on the fourth line Saturday with Trevor Lewis and Kevin Westgarth.

Clifford has three points in his last four games and on Thursday exceeded 10 minutes ice time for only the fourth time this season.

“I’m starting to get my chances and making good on them I guess,” he said. “I’m just going to play my game and points are just an added bonus. It’s nice to get some but I’m just going to stick to my game: hard on the forecheck. I’m playing with two good players tonight.”

He also said he has begun feeling more comfortable since the beginning of the season and credited Handzus with accelerating his development.

“He’s like a second coach on the bench. He helps me and Simmer a lot,” Clifford said. “He’s been around the league a lot so any little details he tells us we need to improve on, or what we need to improve on in our forecheck or breakouts, he’ll be the first to correct us, which is great. It’s good to have a guy that smart on the line.”

We’ll have more later at Latimes.com/sports.

-- Helene Elliott in Nashville

 

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