EL SEGUNDO --
|Kyle Clifford was one of the biggest surprises in camp, making the team at 19.
There were smiles all around for the young Kings on Tuesday.
The trio of 19-year-old Kyle Clifford
, 20-year-old Andrei Loktionov
and 19-year-old Brayden Schenn is a happy one, as all three players are now expected to be on the Kings’ roster for the first regular-season game, Saturday at Vancouver.
The Kings officially trimmed their roster to 25 players by assigning forward Rich Clune
and goalie Erik Ersberg to Manchester, but two more spots will be opened up if, as expected, Matt Greene
and Scott Parse
start the season on injured reserve.
Parse tested his sore groin during a post-practice skate Tuesday afternoon, but it’s unlikely that Parse would be ready for either of the first two games.
That leaves the Kings with 23 healthy players, the maximum number that they could carry, and both coach Terry Murray and general manager Dean Lombardi said the Kings now have the roster with which they intend to start the season.
That leaves the Kings with the following 23 players: Forwards: Dustin Brown
, Clifford, Michal Handzus, Anze Kopitar
, Trevor Lewis
, Loktionov, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Brad Richardson
, Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll
, Kevin Westgarth
and Justin Williams
. Defensemen: Drew Doughty
, Davis Drewiske
, Peter Harrold, Jack Johnson, Jack Muzzin, Willie Mitchell
and Rob Scuderi
. Goalies: Jonathan Bernier
and Jonathan Quick
There are still options. Clifford and Schenn could still be returned to their junior teams before they play their 10th NHL game, and the Kings will have to drop at least one forward when Parse returns from his injury.
For now, the biggest remaining question is who will play on the fourth line.
Westgarth is a lock at right wing. Loktionov and Schenn are centers, Clifford is a left winger and Lewis can play all three positions.
"I haven't decided that yet," Murray said. "I'll have an opportunity to watch, over the next few days, and it will probably come down to the day before to make a call on that." TAKING THE STEP
Based on pre-camp projections, the biggest surprise is probably Clifford, who beat out Clune for a spot as a fourth-line energy player.
Clifford, a second-round draft pick in 2009, was one of the final cuts in camp last year. The Kings like his physical play and believe he has some offensive upside as well.
"It's a dream come true, I guess you could say," Clifford said. "It's something I worked my whole life for. Like the other rookies here, like Schenn and Lokti, it's something we wanted to accomplish. It's just the beginning now. We have to keep working and stay focused and make a career out of it now.''
Clune seemed to have carved out a role for himself as a fourth-line agitator, but Clifford earned the spot and Clune was assigned to Manchester after clearing waivers Tuesday.
"These are good problems to have," Lombardi said. "We had some tough decisions here, and those are subtle signs that your reserve list is certainly getting better, when you have tough decisions. There's not much. They both played their role pretty well. I think it's just a question of numbers. Obviously there's a little window here with Clifford, in terms of the 10 games, but I think it's just a question of numbers. It could have gone either way." MANCHESTER OR EUROPE?
Ersberg also cleared waivers Tuesday, but Lombardi said he expected the goalie to explore offers to play in Europe before deciding whether to join the Monarchs.
Ersberg played professionally for three seasons in Europe before signing with the Kings. He split the 2007-08 season between Manchester and Los Angeles and spent the past two seasons as the Kings’ backup goalie.
On Sunday, the Kings named Bernier as their backup to Quick.
"We have no problem having three NHL goalies available… (but) that has to be mutual,'' Lombardi said. "He has to go down there with a good attitude, and if that's what he wants to do then we'll be fine with it. If, at this stage of his career, he wants to go back to Sweden, then we'll try to accommodate that too." GOING OLD SCHOOL
The Kings hit the ice Tuesday morning wearing purple helmets, gloves and hockey pants. They will wear "retro" purple and gold jerseys for Saturday’s season opener against Vancouver and three other times this season.
A few players also hit the ice with new numbers. Muzzin went from 85 to 6, Schenn from 55 to 10, Loktionov from 48 to 12, Clifford from 64 to 12 and Lewis from 61 to 22.