Among the Kings’ forwards, there’s still considerable question as to who will be on the fourth line. Kevin Westgarth is certain to play on one wing, but the center and left-wing spots are still very much up for grabs. Almost every practice and preseason game features a different combination, and today it was Brayden Schenn and Kyle Clifford teaming with Westgarth. Others in contention include Rich Clune, Andrei Loktionov, Trevor Lewis and John Zeiler. If Scott Parse is healthy for the start of the season, Brad Richardson likely moves to the fourth line, making the competition even tighter. Here’s what Terry Murray said about the fourth-line race today…
MURRAY: “Well, Westgarth is on the fourth line. Parse is out, so that moves Richardson into that spot. I had him as the fourth-line center iceman at the start of the training camp. With the young players still here — Schenn, Loktionov — I clearly want to use them while they’re here. Clune, Zeiler and Lewis are here. I’ve got to play around with that and try to get the best looks that I possibly can. Clifford and Schenn are with Westgarth today. It’s two young guys who are junior-eligible, and I’m giving them every look that I possibly can, to be in there and show the best that they can. It’s a hard thing to deal with, with the number of players, but it’s a nice situation to be in. It clearly says that we have a pretty good group of guys who are vying for spots.”
Clifford has been an intriguing player throughout training camp. He had a goal in Tuesday’s victory over Anaheim and looks comfortable with the type of physical play that is expected from a fourth-line player. Clifford is only 19 and would return to his junior team (Barrie of the OHL) if he doesn’t make the NHL roster.
MURRAY: “He’s a 19-year-old in a man’s body. That’s what I see. He’s a powerful guy. His test results, his on- and off-ice stuff, and you can see the play that he made on his goal the other night, just driving through to the front of the net. He’s a fearless guy. He’s a gritty guy. He’s impressive, he’s very impressive for his age. Last year, I look back and I remember that he ran out of gas at the latter part of the training camp. This year, he seems to be getting stronger. He’s physically maturing, and he’s blending in, in all of the drills. He listens well. He’s a player on the rise, obviously, and we’re excited to have him in the organization.”