LOS ANGELES -- The best gifts come in the smallest packages.
Kyle Clifford scored his first NHL goal Thursday night in a 2-1 victory against the Calgary Flames at Staples Center, then told reporters afterward that he planned to give the puck to his parents.
“It will be a cheap Christmas present,” said the 19-year-old rookie, flashing his increasingly popular smile.
Clifford didn’t even use his stick on the play, instead re-directing a centering pass from Wayne Simmonds off his right skate as he charged at the Calgary net. The puck deflected 90 degrees past goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and into the goal for a 1-0 lead with 9:52 left in the opening period.
The Kings led the rest of the way.
“I just went to the net and good things happen when you put pucks to the net,” he said.
Clifford, who scored his first NHL point on an assist last Thursday in a 3-2 victory against Florida, wasn’t bothered that it took him 22 NHL games to score his first goal. He said last week it took him 30 games to score his first goal at the junior level.
“Offense is just an added bonus to my game,” he said. “I play physical and that stuff’s going to come eventually.”
Clifford showed early on in training camp that he wasn’t afraid to use his body to dislodge pucks along the boards. The Kings have also learned he won’t shy away from a fight, as he demonstrated a few minutes after his goal, when he took on Calgary veteran Tim Jackman in a spirited bout.
“He’ll do anything for us, he’ll fight anyone,” said defenseman Drew Doughty. “He fought Jackman tonight, who is a well-known fighter in the league, and he did a great job.”
Clifford usually just has sore knuckles and an occasional black eye to show for his physical battles. This time he brought an early Christmas present back to the locker room.