Fighting is down in the NHL about 20-25%, according to recent statements by Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Scoring for the LA Kings has been, well until recently, down significantly since last year too.
For Kyle Clifford, it’s been a bit of mixed bag in those two areas. True, his fighting majors are down – he had 18 last season and with only seven so far this year, he should come in significantly below that number.
Yet. on the offensive side of things, he’s actually not that far behind his pace of a year ago – which is rather shocking considering (a) the Kings offense as a whole is down and (b) he’s been used in a different role, especially since the hiring of Darryl Sutter.
With 10 points already in the books, and 16 games to go, he’ll likely come close to the 14 points he tallied last year.
Playing along side Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan of late may be freeing him to do concentrate on other things too, rather than just be a physical presence on the ice.
“Yeah, it definitely takes that kinda pressure off,” said Clifford. “We have guys that have done that all year though. You look at Greener, even Brownie – he stepped up and dropped the mitts (vs. Shane Doan, here). So, it’s always nice to have that extra piece here with Nolan, and Kinger can grab ‘em too. I’ve seen him fight. He’s a pretty good fighter. It’s always nice having the extra physical bodies.”
Cam Jannsesn – then of the Blues, now with the Devils – came on MayorsManor last season and talked about using websites like HockeyFights.com to scout opponents, including Clifford and Kevin Westgarth. However, not every player puts as much thought into things ahead of time.
“I try not to analyze it too much,” Nolan explained. “I don’t like to square up with guys or tap them on the shins and fight. I like to fight in the heat of the moment and the battle, when you’re into the game. Those are your best fights.”
“I laid a check on him,” he said, when describing how things started with Marco Scandella of the Minnesota Wild. “They were down 4-0 at that point, so maybe he was a little frustrated with the game. He looked at me, and it looked like he wanted to go – so, we just kinda went at it at center ice. I think it was good to get my first one under my belt and just kinda feel it out. It felt good.”
LA’s seventh round pick from the 2009 Draft also looked good too, switching hands and throwing some solid blows.
“I try to change it up every once and a while,” Nolan commented. “I had a few fights down in Manchester this year [eight to be exact]. I’m pretty comfortable with it. But, you don’t want to be too confident. So, I’m just feeling things out right now.”
Truth be told, coach Sutter doesn’t see Nolan’s abilities as something that may make things easier on Clifford though.
“Those guys have identities and that’s part of Jordan’s identity. Whatever he did, that didn’t take pressure off of anybody else,” said the Kings’ bench boss. “In a way, Jordan and Cliffy, they’re competing for the same (spot) – it’s competition too.”
And as he’s been known to do over the last few months, Sutter later mixed in some praise for both young players.
“They’re kids and they’re fourth line players right now. They still have holes in their game. But they want to get better and they bring a lot of energy. They’re guys you want to go to the back alley with.”
Yeah, as long as they’re both on your side.
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