DUCKS (23-18-7) at KINGS (31-16-3)
TV: NBCSN, SN
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Los Angeles Kings left wing Kyle Clifford is expected to return to the lineup when the Kings play the Anaheim Ducks at Staples Center on Thursday (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, SN).
Clifford has been out since Dec. 6 with concussion symptoms and is still on injured reserve, but can be activated before game time. He said he was ready after the Kings skated at their practice facility, and looked forward to having his first game back being a rivalry game.
"It will be good," Clifford said. "These are important two points. That's our focus going into this game. It's going to be a hard game."
The Kings' fourth line has been a work in progress, and Clifford's return adds some competition for playing time there.
"[Clifford] provides a role for us, but at the same time, we need as much [from him] as we put on anybody, to be a good checker and a solid teammate," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Get scoring chances too and finish a little bit. We're still looking for that out of our fourth line … everybody gets an opportunity. It's not like you're trying to take opportunities away. You're trying to give everybody opportunities."
The Ducks, who held an optional skate at Staples Center, will be going for a season-high fifth straight win after they began a week of Pacific Division play with a 3-2 win against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. The Kings are 2-3-0 in their past five games but beat the Arizona Coyotes with a season-high six goals on Tuesday.
Adding to the subplot is the Ducks have adapted to a more grinding, Kings-like game while their offense has picked up with 26 goals in the past seven games.
"Both teams know the style of game that's going to be played," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. "I think the reason why you have such great games and such competitive games is because both teams are built very similar. There's not a lot of flash in either one of our games, so you know it's going to be chip-the-puck in, get in on the forecheck, try and wear each other down physically. That's always the game that we like to play, and certainly the game that they like to play."
Here are the projected lineups:
Patrick Maroon - Rickard Rakell - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Ryan Kesler - Jakob Silfverberg
David Perron - Ryan Getzlaf - Chris Stewart
Ryan Garbutt - Nate Thompson - Mike Santorelli
Cam Fowler - Kevin Bieksa
Hampus Lindholm - Josh Manson
Simon Despres - Sami Vatanen
Injured: Clayton Stoner (hip)
Scratched: Korbinian Holzer, Harry Zolnierczyk
Suspended: Shawn Horcoff
Milan Lucic - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Dwight King - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli
Marian Gaborik - Vincent Lecavalier - Trevor Lewis
Tanner Pearson - Nick Shore - Kyle Clifford
Jake Muzzin - Drew Doughty
Alec Martinez - Luke Schenn
Brayden McNabb - Jamie McBain
Injured: Matt Greene (shoulder), Kyle Clifford (concussion)
Scratched: Andy Andreoff, Christian Ehrhoff, Jordan Nolan
Status report: "That '70s Line" of Pearson, Carter and Toffoli that was reunited Tuesday was broken up in the line rushes, according to the Orange County Register. Quick was first off the ice. Gibson is expected to start for Anaheim, his first since the All-Star Game.
Who's hot: Lecavalier, Kopitar and Doughty each have three-game point streaks. … Perry has three goals and three assists in his past four games. Rakell has five goals and six assists in his past 16 games.