Cross Checks: Colin Fraser

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Both the Kings and Sharks were mulling lineup decisions Tuesday morning after the pregame skates.

For Los Angeles, coach Darryl Sutter would not confirm whether winger Kyle Clifford would return for Game 4 on Tuesday night.

“There hasn’t been any announcement that I’m aware of that he’s coming back,” Sutter said when asked about Clifford.

Clifford, who has been out since May 8 with an undisclosed injury, skated on a line with Colin Fraser and Brad Richardson in practice Monday and sounded afterward like he thought he was playing.

But this is the playoffs, and gamesmanship with lineups is a daily activity.

On defense, veteran Matt Greene -- who played in only five games in the regular season after missing two months recovering from back surgery -- hasn’t played in the postseason, although he did take warm-ups before Game 3.

Sutter was asked Tuesday morning what it would take for him to feel comfortable playing Greene, who was a key last spring in the Kings’ Cup run.

“We had him in warm-up the other night, and that’s the direction you go,” Sutter said. “Practice, contact, game-day skates, warm-up, that’s always what you try and do. You’re more inclined with veteran guys ... there’s young guys that you have to push; the difference between injured and hurt, that’s something you have to explain sometimes. But with the older guys, the veterans, guys that you trust, there’s a point where they make that decision because they know what it takes.”

For San Jose, the re-injured Martin Havlat and the suspended Raffi Torres leave the Sharks with few options for their lineup ahead of Game 4.

Expect Tim Kennedy as a fourth-line center or Jason Demers as a seventh defenseman/fourth-line winger. The latter seems more likely.

“Still an option for us,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “We can put Demers in and play him both at forward and the back end, and rotate him around. That would allow us to maybe overplay or use someone else on the fourth line a little bit more, whether it’s Jumbo or Patty or whoever it might be. So it’s certainly an option.”

Demers said Tuesday morning that he was told by the coaching staff simply to be “ready” in case he gets the call. Demers did play some forward three years ago in the conference finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, so it’s not foreign to him.

But McLellan dismissed the notion that because the Sharks have had success with Brent Burns moving from defense to forward, perhaps they can get lucky with Demers as well.

“No, it’s two completely different cases,” McLellan said. “We can’t get into making this a habit. Burnsy has played there before, he’s played well there before. Jason has played up in some games when we’ve needed forwards, but Burnsy is a separate case, a special case.”

Quick contact

Sutter on Monday said he had some concern that his goaltender came into more contact with opposing players in Game 3 than did San Jose’s goalie.

That’s a veteran coach’s way of getting the attention of referees before Game 4, hoping officials will call goalie interference when applicable.

“He plays on top of the crease,” Sutter said Tuesday of Quick when asked about his concerns. “I’m not whining or bitching or anything, but it’s just that he plays on the top of the crease, and the last two series we play against goalies who play more in the blue paint. So, what is the rule?”

The Sharks absolutely want to continue to get into Jonathan Quick’s face as much as possible.

“Within the rules, you want to get into his way,” Sharks winger T.J. Galiardi said. “I think with him, he wants to come out to the ringette line. If he comes out that far, I wish he was fair game. That would be great if that’s how it worked because he’s out all the time. He’s doing just as much as we are, little jabs here and there. He gave his blocker to the face of Burnsy. ... But we’re going to get in there. You can’t let him be comfortable."

Kopitar line

Sutter on Sunday essentially called out his top line, saying the Kings needed more production from Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams.

“We know that,” Kopitar said Tuesday morning. “We take pride in our production and our game and it’s not to a level where we need to be. We’re going to have to crank it up.”

ST. LOUIS -- Hockey players are creatures of habit, they’re routine robots.

Game 2 of the Kings-Blues series is slated for 8:30 p.m. local time (9:30 p.m. ET) Thursday, which frankly is nothing short of silly, and definitely quite different for the players.

"I don’t know if we’ve done that, but keep the people at the TV networks happy, I guess," Blues captain David Backes said with a shrug after the morning skate Thursday.
"Whatever it is, it is. [The Kings] are playing at the same time."

Anze Kopitar was scratching his head but couldn’t remember ever playing this late.

"I’ve never played an 8:30 game," the Kings star center said after his team’s noon CT skate.

"It’s different, for sure," added Kings veteran Jarret Stoll. "I don’t want to sleep too long today, or else I’ll get groggy. I’ll just hang out and stretch, I guess."

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock didn’t hide feelings for the late start.

"It better not get to overtime or I’m going to be asleep on the bench," said Hitchcock after his team’s 11 a.m. skate. "The gap from now to 8:30, I don’t know, there better be some good games on at 6 p.m. [7 p.m. ET] when we’re sitting in the office twiddling our thumbs. It’s a long, long day. I’ve never seen anything like this. This will be interesting."

His counterpart Darryl Sutter was in the same boat.

"Having your meeting tonight at 7 o’clock, ha," Sutter said. "It’s kind of odd. What it affects, quite honestly, is the next part of your travel. We know we’re getting home sometime between 2:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m."

You probably have to go back to players’ minor hockey playing days to remember the last time they played a game that late.

"Second game at the Wonderland of Ice tournament in Toronto, maybe?" Blues star blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk said. "It’s strange, for sure. It’s a weird time. We pushed back the morning skate today [by a half hour], pushed back the meal and the rest of it. You just have to try and get an extra hour of sleep. But luckily with the emotion of the series, you’ll be ready no matter when the game starts."

Blues winger Ryan Reaves figured the extra 90 minutes would come in handy.

"It’s really not going to make much a difference in my routine, I’ll just play Xbox for another hour," Reaves said.

Kings mix it up

While the Blues are going with the same winning lineup from Game 1, the Kings shuffled things at their pregame skate Thursday. All four forward lines were redrawn:


And so Colin Fraser, who didn’t play in Game 1, checks in for Brad Richardson on a revamped fourth line with Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan. No question that move is Sutter’s way of responding to the Blues’ fourth line, which was extremely effective in Game 1.

"I try to fill a role as best I can, an energy role, a fourth-line role, much like their line did in the first game," Fraser said after his team’s noon CT skate. "Our line is going to have to counter that tonight and be just as good as they were."

Quote of the day

Hitchcock cracked everyone up after the morning skate when asked to compare himself with fellow coach Darryl Sutter:

"In the summer, he talks to cows and I talk to golfers."

Responded Sutter, an hour later: "He’s probably a good golfer, too."