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Clifford Feeling Fine

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Kyle Clifford’s biggest issues Monday were the shiner under his left eye and some shortness of breath after almost an hour of intense skating. That was a relief.

Clifford is scheduled to miss his second consecutive game when the Kings host the Calgary Flames tonight at STAPLES Center, but Clifford appears to have escaped more serious problems following his fight with St. Louis’ Ryan Reaves last Thursday.

Clifford had to leave that game after taking a solid punch to the face, and coach Terry Murray later described Clifford as having a head injury that included the aforementioned black eye and some moderate swelling around the eye-socket area.

Clifford said he went through the league’s new concussion-testing protocol, and it’s possible that Clifford could return for Thursday’s home game against San Jose. Clifford participated in today’s morning skate in El Segundo, followed by nearly a half-hour of intense post-practice skating led by the assistant coaches.

Kyle Clifford fights Kyle Chipchura of the Anaheim Ducks earlier this season.
``I'm not having any problems,’’ Clifford said. ``I guess it was just kind of a precaution, to make sure I heal up OK. From the first day, nothing was too out of sorts.’’

Kings coach Terry Murray said that, assuming Clifford suffers no setbacks, he would be on track to return to practice Tuesday.

``He progressed really good after (Sunday),’’ Murray said. ``He had a hard bike ride and felt really good. The key today is going to be, how is going to feel two or three hours from now? He's going to get some hard work, and then we'll see where that falls. He will see our doctor again tonight and then maybe be ready for a full practice tomorrow.’’

Clifford’s injury came in a fight against Reaves, who -- according to official NHL statistics -- outweighs him by 18 points. In recent days, Murray suggested that Clifford might have to alter his fighting style against heavier opponents, but Clifford doesn’t seem inclined to change.

``It has happened before. That's just the way I fight,’’ Cliiford said. ``I'm a brawler, so I'm always exposed. That's the way it's going to go sometimes. I'm not really a defensive fighter, so fighting the bigger guys, I'm going to be exposed sometimes. It's not the first time.’’

The Kings will go with the same lineup they used in Saturday’s game against Anaheim, with Jonathan Quick in goal and Davis Drewiske and Peter Harrold as the healthy scratches.

In the inexact science of attempting to determine how many points will be required to make the Western Conference playoffs, Murray at one point came up with 95.

That was certainly reasonable, given that last season’s eighth-place team, Colorado, finished with 95 points, but given the West’s dominance over Eastern Conference teams, and the number of three-point games, is it time to revise upward?

Entering tonight’s games, ninth-place Dallas is -- based on point-per-game projections -- on pace for 96.8 points, meaning that 97 points might be necessary to get in. For the Kings, that would mean no worse than a 5-4-1 finish to the season.

``I haven't looked at it that much,’’ Murray said. ``That's the number that we threw out, back in the middle of January, when we started talking about segment plans for our team, going into that long road trip in the middle of February. We looked at what it took for the eighth-place team last year to make it, and used that as a start point.

Ryan Smyth forechecks against Jay Bouwmeester of Calgary this season.  The Kings are 3-4 against the Flames since the beginning of 2009-2010.
``It's probably going to be right around that number again. It's just about staying focused on our own games, to make sure we're playing the right way and get some wins put up, and then we'll see what happens from there. You have no control over what's happening in those other games.’’

It certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see another tight game between the Kings and Flames tonight. The Kings are 3-4 against the Flames since the start of last season, and five of those seven games have been decided by one goal.

``It's a hard team for us to play against,’’ Murray said. ``We haven't had a lot of success, over the past couple of years that I've been here. They're a hard-working, very intense team. They check hard, they cycle the puck with great purpose in the offensive zone, and we've got to make sure that we're just doing the right thing and staying on the right side of people.

``They work hard to beat you off the boards, off the cycle, and if you're not rolling in front of that forward that's coming hard to the net, you're going to pay a price. So, defensively, you've got to check, and on the other part of it, we've got to get back and put some more pucks to the net and try to get some goals.''

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