Kings' morning skate: Ryan Smyth trying to stay upbeat, Kyle Clifford ready to return
The Kings had an optional morning skate Thursday in El Segundo to prepare for their game against San Jose at Staples Center, and about a dozen players took advantage of the ice time.
Among them was left wing Ryan Smyth, who has gone 13 games without a goal and has only one in his last 23. He has been through slumps — and prosperity — many times during his 1,060-game NHL career and he’s trying to maintain a positive outlook.
“Just stay consistent. It’s a game of confidence and sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t, at different parts of the season,” said Smyth, who has 20 goals and 41 points in 73 games.
“It’s just bearing down and finishing off the plays. Don’t get too low, don’t get too high, stay even keel. It’s tough at times but you deal with it.
“Obviously you want to be a factor, you want to contribute and help out in any way you can but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Don’t squeeze your stick. It’s all those clichés coming in, but it’s just reality. You just calm down and do what you can.”
With the Kings having scored only two goals in their last three games — that excludes the team goal awarded for winning the shootout against Calgary on Monday — the lack of production from Smyth becomes more noticable.
Not that he’s alone in his offensive struggles, but a few contributions from the veteran winger could go a long way toward helping the Kings solidify their hold on a place in the top eight in the West.
Coach Terry Murray is as aware of the drought as Smyth is but hasn’t discussed it with the 35-year-old winger.
“This is his time of the year,” Murray said. “As a veteran player you always respond to those critical times, those critical games, get your team into the playoffs and be successful in the playoffs.
“And you as a player, to me, you don’t need a long conversation with anybody. It’s a matter of putting on the work boots and getting back at it and getting the job done.”
Kyle Clifford, who missed two games after being punched in the left eye during a fight last Thursday, is scheduled to return. He will start on the fourth line, with Trevor Lewis and Brad Richardson, though Murray has been known to juggle his line combinations from time to time.
Clifford still has some redness in his eye but said he's ready to go and accepted the injury as an occupational hazard.
"It's going to happen the way I fight. I'm more of an offensive fighter and kind of leave myself open all the time," he said.
He said he wasn't told to wear a visor, not that he would have anyway. "No need for that," he said. "That's old bruising. Everything is healed up. Everything is fine."
Among the latecomers on the ice was left wing Scott Parse, who resumed skating a few days ago after being told to back off because of soreness related to his hip surgery. He’s skating after most of his teammates leave the ice and he’s not ready for regular practices yet but Murray said there’s a chance Parse could return this season if the Kings go deep into the playoffs.
“I would not rule that out,” Murray said of a possible return for Parse, who underwent surgery in November. “It’s time to start pushing it again and see where you get to.”
Check back soon for more from — and about — Oscar Moller, who was recalled on Wednesday and will play on the right side with Dustin Penner and Anze Kopitar.
-- Helene Elliott
Photo: Ryan Smyth. Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / US Presswire