Will Clifford stay in?

Darryl Sutter said this morning that he hadn’t made up his mind about his fourth-line combination. Colin Fraser is almost certainly in, leaving two spots for three guys: Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan and Brad Richardson. Sutter indicated that all three will be in the pregame warmups. Is it time for Clifford to sit for a game? For a young player — Clifford turned 21 last month — he has played an extraordinary number of games, signifying coaches’ trust in him, but he’s also coming off a tough road trip. In the second period of Tuesday’s game at Phoenix, Clifford’s turnover led to the Coyotes’ third goal. Then in the third period, with the Kings nursing a one-goal lead, Clifford took a tripping penalty. The Kings killed it, but less than 30 seconds later, Clifford delivered a crushing hit on Coyotes forward Gilbert Brule. Clifford got a match penalty and the Coyotes tied the game on the ensuing power play.

Then, in the first period against Colorado, with the Kings trailing 1-0, Clifford’s attempt to push the puck behind his net ended up giving the puck directly to Paul Stastny, who scored. This is not entirely surprising for a young player. A young player will make a mistake and then might try too hard to make up for it. Darryl Sutter tried to minimize this by dropping Clifford to the fourth line against the Avalanche.

SUTTER: “I moved him, put him with Fraz [Colin Fraser], just to try to get him away and put him with a real character, strong guy, and keep him away from different minutes, take him away from penalty killing. It’s just trying to get him back to his base. Basically, I told him yesterday, `Just go play on your toes, and trust it.’ He’s the youngest player on our team. So don’t make him something that he’s not. On a lot of teams, he wouldn’t be in (the lineup) every night, or he might be in a different situation. He’s a boy, but you try to speed it up.”

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