The good times keep getting better for Los Angeles.
Up 2-0 in their Western Conference semifinal against St. Louis, the Kings received some good news on Thursday as winger Kyle Clifford was cleared to play for the first time since suffering a concussion in the opener of their Round 1 series against Vancouver:
Clifford is available for this evening’s tilt with the Blues, though Kings head coach Darryl Sutter wouldn’t say if the 21-year-old would be back in the lineup.
“He’s available. He’s fully cleared to practice,” Sutter told the L.A. Times. “If you get here for warm-ups then you’re going to find out.”
The decision to play Clifford, the 35th overall pick at the 2009 draft, might not come down to his health at all. The two most likely candidates he’d replace — rookies Dwight King and Jordan Nolan — have played very well against St. Louis and drawn high praise from Sutter.
“They’re big kids who can skate. It’s always nice to have that,” Sutter said. They’re both the same age, young guys. I told them last night I wish I was them.
“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.”
That said, it would seem strange to hold Clifford out. He was a lineup fixture throughout the regular season, playing in 81 games (5G-7A-12PTS) while finishing third on the team in hits (179).
“Nope,” Dubinsky said. “You know, I’ve played the same way my whole career and I’m not going to change. The next time I have an opportunity to play (Crosby), I’m going to play him hard.”
In case you’re wondering, that next opportunity comes on Dec. 21 in Pittsburgh, assuming that both players are healthy and not suspended.
One can understand Dubinsky’s perspective, although such honesty would be that much more interesting if there’s another incident with Crosby. His initial reaction to the hit was interestingly candid, admitting that his “stick rode up” on his adversary.
Would that stance – which, from a harsher view, might seem flippant to Dubinsky’s critics – open the door for a bigger future bit of a discipline?
Maybe, maybe not … but at least his comments aren’t as inflammatory as what John Tortorella said (at least on the record).
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