Cliche’s NHL debut

Marc-Andre Cliche will make his NHL debut tonight, centering the Kings’ fourth line between Raitis Ivanans and Oscar Moller. It’s been a long time coming for Cliche. Acquired in the 2007 trade that sent Sean Avery to the Rangers, Cliche suffered shoulder injuries during the 2008 and 2009 training camps. Then, this season, the Kings wanted to call up Cliche, but he had a minor injury, so Corey Elkins got the call instead.

Now, it’s finally Cliche’s time. His primary strength is as a defensive forward, and he’s expected to get some penalty-killing time tonight, but he also had a bit of a scoring touch with Manchester. That’s important, because it allows Terry Murray to continue playing Cliche and Moller with another forward — if he chooses to sit Ivanans — in a versatile line. Here’s what Murray said about Cliche’s impending debut, followed by Cliche’s thoughts…

MURRAY: “For Cliche, going into the lineup in his first game here, we’re going to watch and see what he does bring, quite honestly. We hear good things from his game in the American League, in Manchester. He’s a very good penalty killer. In the American league he’s putting up some points, scoring some goals. But here, as a fourth-line player, I’m clearly looking for an energy player. Again, a good special-teams player. He will probably get an opportunity on the penalty kill, and just a line that he will center that will buy us some good minutes, hopefully in the offensive zone, cycling the puck, getting some of their better defensemen and being able to cycle against them and take some of the energy away. So it’s a great opportunity for him, and I really want to watch him closely and see what he can bring.”

And Cliche’s thoughts this morning…

Question: What types of things have you been working on in your game?

CLICHE: “I think it’s getting more comfortable down low with the puck as a centerman, and make the safe play. That’s what I’ve needed to work on, and I think I’m ready to go tonight.”

Question: You’ve been unlucky with some injuries in the last couple years. What has that been like?

CLICHE: “The first couple years, I had shoulder surgery, and that was tough. But we have a really good organization here, the rehab and stuff, so I got back and ready. This year has been great, and I’m really, really grateful for what’s happening right now.”

Question: How are you feeling in advance of your NHL debut?

CLICHE: “When you’re young, it’s a dream, and now it’s coming true. It’s becoming a reality. I still have no words for that. I’m going to be so nervous. I’m going to have a hard time having a nap this afternoon, probably.”

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