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:
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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).
The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.
Kings GM Dean Lombardi ranks among the NHL’s most outspoken executives. Even so, his discussion of what he calls Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.
“Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”
Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:
- He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
- Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.” (Bold claim: the production part was probably the bigger sticking point.)
- The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.
Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the Lombardi and the Kings handled the situation.
Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?
Despite owning two Stanley Cup rings, there are a healthy number of people who aren’t wild about Jonathan Quick.
Those people might feel validated through the Los Angeles Kings’ first two games, as he followed a rough loss to the San Jose Sharks with a true stinker against the Arizona Coyotes on Friday.
Sometimes a goalie has a bad night stats-wise, yet his team is as much to blame as anything else. You can probably pin this one on Quick, who allowed four goals on just 14 shots through the first two periods.
Things died down in the final frame, but let’s face it; slowing things down is absolutely the Coyotes’ design with a 4-1 lead (which ultimately resulted in a 4-1 win).
A soft 1-0 goal turned out to be a sign of things to come:
Many expected the Kings to roar into this second game after laying an egg in their opener. Instead, the Coyotes exploited Quick’s struggles for a confidence-booster, which included key prospect Max Domi scoring a goal and an assist.
It’s worth mentioning that Mike Smith looked downright fantastic at times, only drawing more attention to Quick’s struggles.
After a troubled summer and a failed 2014-15 season, Los Angeles was likely eager to start things off the right way.
Instead, they instead will likely focus on the fact that they merely dropped two (ugly) games.