Clifford cements his role on fourth line, others on the clock

Kyle Clifford is still 20 years old.

That’s an important point to remember. Yet, sometimes, a hard fact to keep in mind. People have been calling him things like ‘a kid trapped in a man’s body’ for the last few years. While true, some were expecting more from The Colonel coming into the season – especially after his coming out party during last year’s playoff series with San Jose.

He’s played in all 27 games this season and has three points to show for it (one goal, two assists). In his 27th game last year, he picked up his second goal and fifth point. So, he’s not that far behind.

However, back the post season, he put up five points in six games – including tying for the team lead with three goals.

Still, while nobody probably expected him to be a top-six forward this year, does he belong on the fourth line?

“Well, that’s actually where he should be, is on the fourth line, in reality” said coach Terry Murray after practice today. “That’s where he played last year. He showed great signs in the playoffs last year, had some nice success. You’d like to think he could make a step up to third line and he will be there someday – that would be his position down the road. But, again, second year, it’s not easy. His work ethic, his attitude, his try is tremendous. He loves the team. He works hard for the team and wants to win every night. But, there’s a process that you need to go through and he’s in the middle of it right now.”

Some have wondered if that ‘process’ would include a trip down to Manchester (AHL) once Mike Richards is ready to come off the injured reserve list. I don’t see it. While that may have been a possibility a few weeks ago, the fact remains Andrei Loktionov hasn’t shown much on his recent call-up.

That’s not a knock on the talented Russian forward. Like Clifford, he’s a young player – just 21 years old – and his future still looks bright. For all of his supporters who claimed his lack of production was due to him playing on the wing though, he hasn’t shown much more since being moved back to center.

Loktionov isn’t a bust. It’s just not his time. He needs to show more to stay in the NHL on the third line. And much more to find a spot on the Kings second line.

So, when Richards is ready, Loktionov is the only other player who can be sent down without having to first go through waivers (exposing that player to another team).

Finally, if you’re looking for another player who’s time is just about up – see Trent Hunter. He’s a big body, which Murray has shown a tendency to prefer over the last few seasons. But, his lack of production – including getting ice time with Anze Kopitar this season – makes him a prime candidate to get waived soon.

Readers love predictions, so here’s one – Hunter won’t be with the Kings when you and your family are unwrapping presents in a few weeks.

The Mayor
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