Kyle Clifford of the Kings skates against Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators… (Frederick Breedon / Getty…)
Winger Kyle Clifford, out of the Kings’ lineup since he suffered a concussion in the opener of their first-round NHL playoff series against Vancouver, is available to play in Game 3 of the Kings’ second-round series against St. Louis on Thursday at Staples Center.
However, Coach Darryl Sutter would not say if the rugged winger will play or even if Clifford will participate in warm-ups.
“He’s available. He’s fully cleared to practice,” Sutter said. “If you get here for warm-ups then you’re going to find out.”
Clifford was driven into the boards on April 11 by Vancouver's Byron Bitz, who was suspended two games by the NHL.
It’s unlikely Sutter will change the lineup for Thursday's game, given that the Kings have a 2-0 series lead and given the strong performance so far of fourth-liners Brad Richardson, Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan. Clifford could conceivably replace Dwight King on the third line but Sutter had heaps of praise Thursday morning for rookies King and Nolan and the positive effect the two forwards have had since they were recalled from Manchester, N.H., of the American Hockey League on Feb. 10.
“I think they impacted our team when we brought them up,” Sutter said after the team held an unprecedented morning skate at Staples Center. “They’re big kids who can skate. It’s always nice to have that. They’re both the same age, young guys. I told them last night I wish I was them.”
Sutter also said King and Nolan had handled the playoff intensity “really well.” He added, “The best part about those two kids is probably their background .… As we go along we’ve had to manage their minutes because it is a more intense environment, but they’ve done a good job giving us those minutes.”
Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock said his top defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo, will play Thursday after missing Game 2 because of an undisclosed injury. Pietrangelo was pushed into the boards from behind by Kings forward Dwight King in Game 1, and the Blues were irate that King got only a minor penalty for boarding.
“He’s in. He’ll play. He feels good. Ready to go,” Hitchcock said after the Blues’ morning skate. “So we’re hoping the whole stability part gets back to our team, where we’ve got the right players playing in the right situations.”
We’ll have more coverage later, including comments from several players who are having fun being part of an exciting sports time in Los Angeles.
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Blues' Ken Hitchcock is an NHL Coach of the Year finalist
Kings' Kyle Clifford available for Game 3 against St. Louis