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Kings Notebook (March 17)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Richard Clune has found a home with the Kings on the fourth line. He will be paired with Jarret Stoll and Raitis Ivanans on Thursday vs. Chicago.

As with most teams, there has been plenty of movement on the Kings' fourth line this season, particularly since the trade deadline. Since October, coach Terry Murray has been seeking the correct fit, and it seems he's at least one-third of the way there.

Rich Clune, after an early-season setback, has earned Murray's praise and trust as a fourth-line energy player who can agitate opponents and stand up for teammates.

In nine games with the Kings, Clune has two assists, but he's not here for offense.

More importantly, Clune has drawn a handful of minor penalties -- and one game misconduct -- while taking only two minor penalties himself. Clune is most effective as an agitator who can frustrate opponents without putting his own team at risk.

Clune will remain on the fourth line during Thursday's game against Chicago at STAPLES Center, alongside center Jarret Stoll and winger Raitis Ivanans.

Clune is fulfilling the potential he showed in training camp, when he was on the verge of making the team before suffering a groin injury late in the preseason schedule.

"We liked him coming out of the training camp," Murray said. "He did everything he possibly could to earn the right to be on the hockey club, and unfortunately injuries became a part of the decision, and it became a non-decision. He's an energy player that can bring intensity to the game, change the momentum of the game. He's going to go out and get some hard play. He's going to get into the odd fight here and there, and he's just going to bring that emotional level to the game.

"And also, on the other side of it, he's there as a player that gives us a bit of an identity, with Raitis, to help our protection and help our skill players feel comfortable. With Chicago, they're going to have three or four guys that are going to be heavy and hard players."

Peter Harrold returned to practice Wednesday, a day after his wife, Casey, delivered the couple's first child, a son named Lincoln James Harrold.

The birth was the third among the Kings' immediate family in recent weeks. The wives of goalie Jonathan Quick and strength and conditioning coach Tim Adams also recently delivered children.

At their meetings this month in Florida, the NHL's general managers recommended changes to league rules that would strictly regulation hits to the head.

The rules were scheduled to be considered early this summer, but NHL vice president Colin Campbell has indicated this week that the league might expedite the approval process and have the new rules in place soon, perhaps at the start of the playoffs.

The new rules would regulate, and punish, blindside and lateral hits to the head.

Murray, a longtime critic of what he calls "reckless" hits in the NHL, said he would be in favor of the change, even though specific penalties have yet to be established.

"I'd like to see it go into effect right away," Murray said. "The adjustment period, whether it's this year or next year, is still going to take some time. But it brings focus to it much quicker, right now, because of the critical time of the year. Every game, every penalty could be the turning point in the outcome of the game. I think players would make that adjustment, emotionally and mentally, as quickly as they possibly could. I think, at the start of next year, it might drag it out a little bit."

Murray, who ended his playing career in 1982 and began coaching the following year, said he's ready for action, not just talk, on the issue of reckless hits.

"This is an issue that has been around for quite a few years," Murray said. "I can remember going to the draft several years ago and watching these same clips from the league office in our coaches' meetings, and them asking for our opinions on it. It's a careless play.

"You know, as a hockey player, when you're coming up behind somebody and he's not aware of you coming at him full speed, that you're putting a player at risk here. There's a possibility of an injury, and I think players themselves have to really look at the style of play that they're showing in those situations."

For the final time this season, the Kings had three days off between games. After Sunday's loss to Nashville, the team stayed off the ice Monday, then had spirited, fairly lengthy practices on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Going forward, in their final 14 games, the Kings have two days off between games only once, between the April 3 home game against Anaheim and the April 6 game at Anaheim. The Kings also have three sets of back-to-back games remaining on their schedule.

"The last 14 games now, it's a big push," Murray said. "We've got a team coming in here, in Chicago, that has had a couple games here recently that they're probably a little upset about, so you know darn well they're going to come with their `A' game. We've got to be coming out with the same kind of effort.

"Considering the way we played against Nashville, I was happy about (the time off). We needed the rest. We needed that day off, and then to come back at it yesterday and today to fine-tune some of the areas and address some of the system play. I think it's going to be good for us."
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