Milan Lucic made a big hit on Chris Wagner and subsequently fought Josh Manson in Tuesday’s exhibition game against Anaheim, and after the game Darryl Sutter reiterated what the power forward’s role on the team was.
“He’s a big guy that’s got to play an emotional, physical game, and he did,” Sutter said.
There are nuances to playing a “physical” game that don’t always include fighting, but Lucic did fight, as did Kyle Clifford, who fought Kevin Bieksa after some verbal exchanges with Corey Perry.
It was a preseason game between a pair of rivals that seemed to represent a crescedo of the emotional and battling quotient eight days before the start of the NHL season.
Clifford, who has engaged in some of the more pugilistic aspects of the game fairly often through his young NHL career, liked what he saw from Lucic in a game that didn’t come with a two-point reward.
“Looch, he’s league-known for being a big, tough, strong guy, and he’s got a lot of leadership qualities in him, so to see him do that definitely brings the whole team up and makes everyone feel bigger, so it’s good to see that.”
And even though the game was a preseason game, the same NHL code of combat applied.
“I mean, it’s a fight, you don’t go out there with your guard down, you’re going to protect yourself and to win, to create energy, to protect a teammate or whatever the cause may be,” he said. “I know it’s the preseason, but obviously the emotions are high if you’re fighting – that’s the game of hockey.”
Those emotions were high both on Tuesday night and in Clifford’s breakthrough training camps around the turn of the decade, which culminated when he scrapped his way onto the roster as a 19-year-old in 2010-11.
“I think when you’re a younger guy you want to try an establish an identity, and if that’s something that’s a part of your game, then that’s what you do,” he said. “If you’re a goal scorer, you’re going to try and go out and score goals, if you’re a penalty killer, you’re going to go kill penalties. I think [fighting] was a tool in my game when I was 19, and still is, and obviously you’re trying to show the coaching staff, the GM, and the players around the league who you are and that you’re able to hang with the big boys.”
And so marks the five-year anniversary of Clifford’s fight against Ryan Wilson at Frozen Fury in 2010. As the saying goes, he was old enough to throw punches for his team, but not yet old enough to gamble. He also fought Sheldon Brookbank the very next night in Anaheim, and league heavyweight (and current Ontario Reign forward) Paul Bissonnette earlier in the preseason, according to HockeyFights.com.
All in the nascent career of one of the league’s toughest forwards.
“It’s surprising, the fights go real quick, just with how high the emotions are, and how much you’re into it,” Clifford said. “The adrenaline’s going, so you don’t feel it as much as you do when you get back to your room after the game or the next day, but you just try and protect yourself at all times, and as players get older, I think they find ways to do that.”
Kyle Clifford, on his first Frozen Fury:
It was cool, a lot of bright lights, it was fun, I remember Brayden Schenn took us out to a nice restaurant. It was something different, something you don’t see coming from a small town in Canada, so it was cool, kind of opened your eyes a little bit.
Clifford, on the players’ routine at Frozen Fury:
It’s just any other city, guys get together and go for dinner, we have a game to get ready for tomorrow, it’s no different than going to Montreal or Vancouver.
Clifford, on whether he’d look forward to a permanent team in Las Vegas:
Yeah, I think it’d be good, they’ve obviously done a good job of pre-selling season tickets, so it sounds like there is a market there, I’m no expert but I think everybody would enjoy expanding the league whether it’s Vegas, Seattle, or wherever it is.
Clifford, on the Frozen Fury crowd:
It’s good for the fans, they get into it, you know, LA’s close, and you’re able to travel, so you get a lot of Kings fans there, and they treat it like a home game.
Clifford, on whether he’s happy with the team’s preseason scoring chances:
Yeah, you know, I think the higher-end guys have been getting chances, it’s just a matter of putting them in; I think they’re doing a great job of creating chances, it’s just got to be about finishing for our team from the top down.
Clifford, on how to cultivate finishing:
I think guys want to score, and we’ve got a lot of high-end players here that can do it, they’re hungry to score around the net. I think our whole team wants to produce, you’ve got to score goals at the end of the day to win games.
Clifford, on this team’s firepower compared to previous teams:
It’s up there, I think. Depth wise, top to bottom, it’s there, so it’s just a matter of bearing down and finishing.