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Clifford Is One Bad Dude

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
As he pulled tape off his equipment after Monday night’s victory over Boston, Kings assistant captain Matt Greene shared his thoughts on the victory, started with a rightful, well-deserved nod to goalie Jonathan Quick, who had just recorded the shutout.

Then, Greene gave an unprompted, and perhaps surprising, shout-out.

``Kyle Clifford is one bad dude,’’ Greene said.

Nobody has -- or likely will -- disputed that statement, as Clifford has shown, just over halfway through his rookie season, a tenacious ability to stand up for himself and teammates and has shown improvement in all areas of his game.

It’s notable, though, that Greene, a veteran defenseman and a team leader, would take the time and effort to drop such praise on a 20-year-old forward.

Los Angeles Kings left wing Kyle Clifford, left, fights with Boston Bruins right wing Shawn Thornton during the first period of last night's game.
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
In the first period Monday night, Clifford dropped gloves with veteran forward Shawn Thornton. The rookie and the veteran swung wildly and violently at each other, and while neither player got a knockdown, the Kings immediately banged their sticks on the boards in support of Clifford, and Greene said Clifford gave the team a lift.

``It's just a guy making the ultimate sacrifice,’’ Greene said after practice Tuesday. ``They're trying to get the momentum going, and it's the hardest job in hockey, for sure. He's a guy who came in here, and both he and Westie [Kevin Westgarth] have done a great job for us this year. I think it's lost on a lot of people, some of the guys he's fighting. Thornton, I don't even know how old he is, but he's 12, 13 older than him, and there's no fear. The way he goes about what he does, it's amazing. It's amazing to all of us, and you just want to let guys like that know that they're appreciated and how valuable they are to a team.’’

Clifford has been in 11 fights this season and Westgarth, the team’s designated ``heavyweight’’ -- Clifford would be known more as a middleweight -- has had seven. Greene also pointed out Wayne Simmonds as another teammate who has the ability to give the team a lift, and Clifford, just a year out of junior hockey, has fit in well.

``He's got everybody's respect in this room,’’ Greene said. ``At the same time, you can just tell from the way he approaches the game and the way he battles, that he will do anything for us. I know that I, and I'm sure everybody else in this room, would do the same thing for him, too. It's amazing to watch him go out there and do it every night, him and Westie. It's a tough job, and you just want them to know they're appreciated.’’

Bob Miller and Jim Fox took home awards today at the annual Southern California Sports Broadcasters luncheon in Toluca Lake.

Miller won the Sports TV Play-by-Play Award (other finalists were the Clippers' Ralph Lawler and the Dodgers' Vin Scully) and Fox won the Sports TV Color Analyst award (other finalists were the Lakers' Stu Lantz and FSN's Petros Papadakis. It was Miller's seventh award win and Fox's second.

Also, former Kings broadcaster Rich Marotta received the SCSB's Hall of Fame award.

The Kings’ game against San Jose tomorrow night at STAPLES Center is their last before the All-Star break -- the Kings won’t play again until Tuesday in Minnesota -- and Quick will get the start in goal, coming off his 34-save shutout of the Bruins.

``I thought he was really good last night,’’ coach Terry Murray said. ``Not that he had a lot of work in the early part of the game, but he certainly did as the game progressed. I like Boston's team. They come hard, their back end is up on the attack all the time, and they play a blue-collar, heavy game outside of the boards, recovering pucks, and they will take it to the net. It required the goaltender to be very sharp last night at times, and Quicker was looking really good. Real sharp on the puck, made some big stops.’’

Andrei Loktionov scored the Kings’ second goal against the Bruins and, overall, had the strongest of his three games since being recalled from the AHL last week.

Loktionov, a natural center, has been playing a first-line left-wing role alongside center Anze Kopitar and right winger Dustin Brown.

``Loktionov, he's going to settle in, the more he plays in those big situations,’’ Murray said. ``He likes the challenge. He's a competitive player. You're playing in a position that you haven't played a lot of, and you're playing with new linemates, so there's an adjustment period, but I sure like his aggressive attitude. He's going after pucks, he's recovering pucks and staying with that kind of a mindset, which is very important.

``He's not hesitant. He's either right of top of it, or maybe gets caught going the wrong way but I sure like the attitude of, `I've got to go do this. This is what I normally do in my look for this read.' And he stays with it, and it's starting to fall in place for him.’’

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