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Clifford's conditioning goes well with Ontario

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings

While Kings players took some time to rest during the NHL’s All-Star Weekend, which Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick and head coach Darryl Sutter have traveled to Nasvhille, Tennessee to participate in, it was back to work for Kyle Clifford.

Clifford, who has been out since he took a high hit from Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman on December 6, has missed the Kings’ previous 23 games.

After a few weeks of recovery, and a couple weeks back on the ice in El Segundo, Clifford returned to game-action with the AHL’s Ontario Reign for a conditioning assignment with back-to-back games Friday and Saturday night.

“It was a quick turnaround,” Clifford said Saturday of playing twice in as many days after being out so long. “But I felt good, I thought the boys played well, and obviously [Peter Budaj] posted another shutout; so you know he did a great job, put the team on his back.

And with Clifford, the Reign skated away to two-straight shutout victories.

Skating with Andrew Crescenzi and Justin Auger through the weekend, Clifford recorded three shots in each game he played, helping the Reign to a 2-0 victory over the San Diego Gulls Friday night at the Valley View Casino Center, and a 4-0 win over the Manitoba Moose in front of a sold-out crowd of 9,491 Saturday night in Ontario at the Citizens Business Bank Arena.

Clifford came close to scoring the Reign's fourth goal of the night Saturday when he rung a shot off of two posts, nixing Vincent LoVerde's put-back when the referees blew an early whistle thinking the intial shot crossed the goal-line.

“I’ve been out for an extensive period of time, so there’s definitely a little bit of a transition period there,” Clifford said about getting back into a groove. “But the more minutes you get in the better you feel, the more natural it feels.”

With that, and with another couple of days left on the Kings’ All-Star break to burn, he might just join his teammates in taking some time off. “I think we’re just going to head home," Clifford said, "take a day and kind of relax, spend some time with the family and enjoy it.”

And about that imminent return?

“I’m cleared to play, so it’s just a matter of saying ‘ready’ when my name’s called.”

Fans took so social media during Clifford's stint with Ontario over the weekend:

Keeping tabs. #ONTvsMAN

A photo posted by ontarioreignhockey (@ontarioreignhockey) on

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