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Category: Kyle Clifford

Kings' Young Guns aiming for continued playoff success

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After defeating the Sharks at San Jose on Saturday to extend their first-round playoff series to a sixth game Monday night at Staples Center, the Kings say they’re calm and have a game plan that will get them to a seventh game Wednesday at HP Pavilion.

“We got our confidence up. We got the last one,” right wing Wayne Simmonds said. “I think we’ve just got to come home and kind of picture it as an away game and just play the same way and keep it simple, the same way as we do on the road.”

The Kings are 2-1 at San Jose but 0-2 at home after losing Games 3 and 4.

“Everyone feels good. We’re confident in ourselves,” Simmonds said. “We’ve had our bad games and we’ve had good games this year and I think we’ve learned from what we haven’t done right in all those bad games and we’re ready to do it right now.”

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Kings' morning skate: Ryan Smyth trying to stay upbeat, Kyle Clifford ready to return

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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.

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Kings' Terry Murray says he overreacted in criticizing fans

Tm Kings Coach Terry Murray, who said hearing fans at Staples Center boo his team after the second period of an eventual 4-0 loss to St. Louis on Thursday was “the most embarrassing thing I have ever been through,” acknowledged Friday that he shouldn’t have vented his emotions toward the paying customers.

“I overreacted probably, in saying … you don’t want to drag them into the reason why, but I did. There’s nothing I can do about it now,” he said after the team’s practice in El Segundo.

“It’s never the right thing to throw stuff at your fans. I know that. It was a night to forget.”

The Kings were trailing, 2-0, at the time and had taken only six shots. They finished with a season-low 17.

The poor performance was in dramatic contrast to the team’s sweep of a four-game trip that ended Tuesday at Nashville. Murray blamed himself for giving players a day off on Wednesday instead of having them practice to stay sharp.

He said he knew the first home game after a toughtrip would be difficult for the Kings, who are winless in their last three home games, and he allowed his emotions to boil over while speaking to reporters in his usual postgame news conference.

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Kings' Kopitar happy to share Slovenian spotlight, and other notes...

Kings center Anze Kopitar no longer has the distinction of being the only Slovenian player in the NHL, and he’s glad to have the company.

The Red Wings recently called up left wing Jan Mursak, a native of Maribor, Slovenia. Mursak replaced winger Dan Cleary, who suffered a broken ankle a few days ago.

Like Kopitar, who left home to play hockey in Sweden, Mursak had to leave to improve his hockey skills. Mursak played in the Czech League and the junior-level Ontario Hockey League and was drafted by Detroit in the sixth round in 2006. He has spent the last two seasons with the Red Wings’ American Hockey League affiliate.

Kopitar said he knew Mursak well and that they played together growing up. Kopitar is about five months older than Mursak.

“We played on a few national teams together. He’s actually a friend of mine,” Kopitar said after the Kings skated Wednesday morning in preparation for their game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena. “I know him. We’ve actually skated during the summer, too. A few times. He’s from the same hometown as my girlfriend.” That’s Maribor, the opposite side of the country from Kopitar’s hometown of Jesenice.

“I played against him all the time," Kopitar said. "We’re pretty much the same generation.”

But he said there weren’t many other Slovenians on a path to the NHL — except maybe Kopitar's younger brother, Gasper. “There’s a few good young players. I think it’s just a matter of making the right decision and sticking with it. That’s the only problem, I think,” Kopitar said.

That and the fact players must leave the country to advance their careers.

“They probably have to. If not juniors, they probably have to go somewhere in Sweden, Finland, maybe Czech or something so they can develop,” he said.

Incidentally, Kopitar’s father, Matjaz, is coaching Slovenia’s national team though he remains based in Los Angeles.

Speaking of national teams … Kings left wing Kyle Clifford had hoped to earn a place on Team Canada’s roster for the world junior championships last year but didn’t make the cut. He attended Canada’s summer camp in advance of the current tournament, but he’s watching it from afar because he’s busy establishing himself in the NHL as a physical and tireless player with a decent upside offensively.

“Plan A was to be here. If I wasn’t here, Plan B was to be in the world juniors,” he said. “Everything worked out like planned. I’m here now, and I’m happy. I wish them all the best.”

Kings Coach Terry Murray has become a huge Clifford booster.

“We all felt he should have been selected last year and he wasn’t, so we decided to keep him so they couldn’t have an opportunity to get him this year,” Murray joked. “I’m glad he hasn’t come and asked me if he could go. I would have been disappointed, actually.

“He’s making great strides here and he’s a great kid. It’s great to see the attitude that he brings every day to the practice — going to the rink early to get himself ready. Every game he’s on the first bus. He’s just a rink rat. He wants to play the game and play the right way, and he wants to become a very successful pro hockey player for a long time, and he’s doing all the right stuff with his respect for the game, for the veteran players.

“And he’s showing to us, the coaches, that he’ll do whatever it takes, put in the work, the time, to keep our trust and keep it going on the ice."

A few notes on goaltender Jonathan Quick, courtesy of broadcaster Nick Nickson:

Quick — who is scheduled to start Wednesday night -- is the first goalie in Kings history to record three road shutouts in one month (at Detroit Dec. 13, at Colorado Dec. 21 and at San Jose on Monday). The club record for shutouts in one month — home and road — is four, set by Felix Potvin in March 2001.

Only five King goalies have ever recorded three shutouts in one month: Potvin had four in March of 2001 and three in January 2002; Quick has three so far this month, Kelly Hrudey had three in March 1991, Rogie Vachon had three in February of 1977, and Gerry Desjardins had three in January 1969.

Look for more from the game, at www.latimes.com/sports

-- Helene Elliott in Glendale, Ariz.

 

Kings: Injured Alexei Ponikarovsky will sit again; Jonathan Quick to start against Coyotes

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Greetings from rainy Glendale, Ariz.

Left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky, who missed Monday’s 4-0 victory at San Jose because of a lower-body injury that is believed to be an ankle problem, was the first player on the ice for the Kings’ morning skate Wednesday but didn’t participate in many drills. Afterward, Coach Terry Murray said Ponikarovsky won’t play Wednesday against the Coyotes.

“He’s still a little lame. Feeling a lot better,” Murray said. “He’s gone through two days of pretty intense treatment. Still some swelling, a little bit of tenderness. Not able to cross over, pivot, open up -- all those things that hockey players have to do. So we’ll just keep pushing the rehab work. When his body’s ready to go he’ll get back in.”

Murray also said defenseman Willie Mitchell, who suffered an apparent knee injury Dec. 16 at St. Louis, skated on Wednesday at the team’s El Segundo training base. Murray said he had no update beyond the originally stated week-to-week projection.

Otherwise, Murray said the lineup will be the same Wednesday at Jobing.com Arena, with Jonathan Quick starting in goal. He also confirmed that Jonathan Bernier will start at home Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Murray and the rest of the coaching staff watched the Coyotes lose to the Ducks Tuesday night to start a rare set of back-to-back home games, and they took lots of mental notes. Murray said the Coyotes were uncharacteristically loose at the start off the game and later played a more urgent, press-up game that he expects to see them play Wednesday.

“More three on the puck, defense are going to be aggressive down the boards, defense are going to be jumping up on the play on the attack on a pretty consistent basis and probably play more pucks off the net than what they did," he said. "I thought they overpassed and looked for some cute plays in the offensive zone [Tuesday] night. So I’m sure there will be a change of attitude tonight.”

More in a little bit, including Kyle Clifford’s thoughts on not being at the world junior championships and Anze Kopitar welcoming a fellow Slovenian to the NHL.

-- Helene Elliott in Glendale, Ariz.

Photo: Alexi Ponikarovsky. Credit: Jerry S. Mendoza /Associated Press.

Wednesday could be decision day for Kings' Kyle Clifford, Brayden Schenn

Clifford_400 With an important deadline approaching for the Kings to decide whether they will keep 19-year-old forwards Kyle Clifford and Brayden Schenn or return each to his respective junior team, Coach Terry Murray said Wednesday he intends to have Clifford in the lineup Thursday against Dallas at Staples Center but will sit Schenn for the third straight game.

That would be Clifford’s 10th game, which would activate the first year of his contract. After he plays 10 games the Kings could still return him to Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League, but they could not recall him this season.

Murray said he and General Manager Dean Lombardi planned to meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss their thoughts on the two youngsters. Asked whether it would be more beneficial to keep Schenn here without playing him or return him to Brandon of the Western Hockey League, Murray was blunt.

“My gut feeling on it is that he might need to go back and play, go to junior and play,” Murray said after the Kings’ practice in El Segundo.

“That’s my gut feel. That will be the conversation we have, so that’s not a firm, strong opinion, obviously, it’s just my opinion. It has a little bit of weight but it doesn’t carry everything.

“So we’ll discuss it and we’ll see where it comes out.”

During practice Lombardi declined to disclose his intentions. “I guess we’ll find out. Actions speak louder than words,” he said.

When asked if it served Schenn and the team best to have him here without playing, Lombardi said, “I guess that’s what we’re working through right now, to see if it serves the purpose of the team and making him better. Those are the two issues.”

Lombardi said the decision would not be based on finances or cap issues. Schenn’s NHL salary would be $900,000, but he also has $2.115 million in bonuses, and has a cap hit of $3.140 million. Clifford would earn $685,000 plus bonuses, for a cap hit of $870,000. The Kings have about $6 million in cap space, according to capgeek.com and nhlscap.com.

We’ll have more later, including defenseman Jake Muzzin saying he welcomed being sent to Manchester to work on his game -- but he’s glad to be back and will be playing Thursday.

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Kyle Clifford. Credit: Kelvin Kuo / US Presswire

Kings adjust after injuries to Mitchell, Ponikarovsky

The Kings will place defenseman Willie Mitchell (fractured left wrist) on injured reserve and recall defenseman Jake Muzzin from Manchester of the American Hockey League Tuesday [Updated 2:55 p.m. the Kings made this official]. Left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky (fractured finger) wasn’t placed on IR but that could still happen before their next game, against Dallas on Thursday at Staples Center.

Muzzin was due to arrive in Los Angeles Tuesday night, meaning the Kings had only six defensemen in a lengthy practice session in El Segundo. The pairings were Rob Scuderi-Drew Doughty, Davis Drewiske-Matt Greene, and Jack Johnson-Peter Harrold. Coach Terry Murray said he’d look at the pairings again Wednesday, after Muzzin practices with the team.

Mitchell is expected to be out four to six weeks. Ponikarovsky is projected to miss four weeks’ time. Both were injured during the Kings’ 4-1 victory over Nashville on Saturday, their fourth straight victory and fifth in six games.

“We’re losing two veteran guys who have been in the league for a while and two of the older guys, I guess, on this team,” Doughty said. “It definitely [stinks] to lose them but I know we’re fully confident here that the guys who are going to replace Mitchy and Poni are going to do their jobs just as good as they were.

“We have no doubts we’re going to continue on this roll.”

Doughty also said he welcomes the reunion with Scuderi, who was his partner much of last season. “I thought last year we were really, really good together,” he said. “We were great at shutting down the other team’s offense, and together we know where we’re going to be. In a way I’m going to really miss playing with Mitchy but I’m happy to play with Scuds as well.”

Translations for the uninitiated: Mitchy is Mitchell, Scuds is Scuderi, Poni is Ponikarovsky. Doughty is usually called “Dewey.” There’s also Greener and Quickie and a host of other nicknames, but we’ll get into that another time.

Brad Richardson took Ponikarovsky’s place on the third line, with Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds but Murray said he hadn’t decided who will play on the fourth line. But he said he plans to play Kyle Clifford. (It would be the rugged left wing’s 10th game and would trigger the first year of his entry-level contract.) Clifford, 19, could still be sent back to his junior team after that but a year would be clocked off his contract.

“You make adjustments. It’s a competitive game and when you play hard stuff happens in a game,” said Murray, who had his full team for only two games before Mitchell and Ponikarovsky were hurt. “Injuries happen.”

He also said he’s debating whether to use Brayden Schenn or Trevor Lewis at center on the fourth line. Schenn has played eight games and is in the same position as Clifford as far as playing 10 games. If Schenn stays under the 10-game limit he can go back to juniors without activating the first year of his contract.

Murray said he and General Manager Dean Lombardi would likely discuss Schenn and Clifford Tuesday night, after Lombardi’s scheduled return from general managers’ meetings in Toronto.

More later at www.latimes.com/sports.

-- Helene Elliott

Fun, frivolity -- and a Kings game too

Ryansmyth_300 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.

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