Kings: Kale Clague Has Done “Really Good Things” Since Return

ST LOUIS, MO - JANUARY 23: Kale Clague #58 of the Los Angeles Kings skates against the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center on January 23, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - JANUARY 23: Kale Clague #58 of the Los Angeles Kings skates against the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center on January 23, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

Since his return from the AHL, Kale Clague has stepped up his game for the LA Kings, helping to put the struggling club back in the win column.

After beginning the season with the Kings, defenseman Kale Clague was sent down to Ontario to make room for the big club’s already-deep defensive corps. As disappointing — and as frustrating — as a demotion is, though, Clague made the best of his opportunity in the AHL.

In 18 games for the Reign, the Regina, Sask., native scored one goal and five assists but helped the club turn things around with his sound defensive play. If Clague was out to show that he deserved to be back in the NHL, the Kings took notice.

With Olli Maatta and Tobias Bjornfot already sidelined with injuries, Clague was inserted back into the Kings lineup when defenseman Matt Roy was placed on the COVID protocol list. If there was any time to make the best of opportunities, it was now, and so far, Clague has done just that.

While he went pointless in his return to Los Angeles on Apr 3, Clague registered an assist on Monday and then two on Wednesday to help the silver-and-black pull off a 4-3 comeback win against Arizona.

Following Wednesday’s game, Clague spoke with the media about the victory, beginning with his give-and-go with Adrian Kempe that pulled the LA Kings to within a goal early in the third.

“Yeah, I knew there was gonna be back pressure, and I mean, it was just instincts, I guess,” the 22-year-old said with a chuckle.

While his pair of assists was pivotal, not everything Clague contributed could be shown on the scoresheet. To be more specific, the former Brandon Wheat King delivered a devastating hit on Arizona’s Michael Bunting during the second period on Wednesday. Bunting scored two goals against the Kings on Monday but after getting leveled by Clague, perhaps scoring again would have been something to think twice about.

“Yeah, that was a good shift,” the Kings blueliner noted. “Yeah, I just saw the opportunity to step up. He was getting kind of a

pass, so saw the opportunity to step up and got him pretty good, and it [was] clean.”

While the LA Kings did end their three-game losing streak with the victory, Wednesday night showed, when fully focused, just how formidable the silver-and-black can be. Specifically, a three-goal third period helped affirm that, while they have had their share of struggles recently, the Kings have plenty of belief in themselves.

“Yeah, I think we showed it,” Clague observed. “You know, we weren’t ready to back down. I’m really happy for everyone to get back on the winning track, and I know we all just want to carry that over into the weekend.

“I think we just– I mean, we did a great job on the kill, and got that shorthanded goal got us going a little bit. Yeah, we just played on our toes throughout the third and a lot of good O-zone time, so I think we just kept pushing and got our bounces.”

The aforementioned shorthanded goal — Kempe’s tally — was actually an even-strength goal as Clague and Kempe teamed up to score six seconds after Mikey Anderson’s slashing penalty ended. Nevertheless, a goal is a goal, and Clague and company were more concerned with the tally counting than anything else.

As for Drew Doughty’s frustration from Monday night, Clague and company felt it, processed it, and upped their collective game as a result.

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“Yeah, I mean, he plays with a lot of emotion, and he’s very vocal on the ice in the room,” Clague stressed of Doughty. “So, I think everyone feeds off that, and I thought we put a lot of energy, a lot more than the other night. Yeah, really happy for everyone in the room, and you know we got our bounces when it mattered.”

Additionally, the Kings coaching staff have certainly been appreciative of Clague’s efforts as of late, both on the offensive and defensive side of the puck.

“We need really good nights from him right now, obviously, with guys out of the lineup,” noted Todd McLellan. “Since he’s come back up, he’s played quite well, both offensively and defensively. His sense of where he is on the ice and his reads and when to go and when not to are much better now than when he left. So, he’s done some really good things [in Ontario].”

While the health and welfare of the absent Kings blueliners are paramount, this nonetheless marks an ideal opportunity for Kale Clague not only to help the silver-and-black win but to further prove that he is worthy of being a full-time NHL defenseman.

He may only be three games into his return with the big club, but Clague has done exactly what has been asked of him and has even exceeded expectations. In turn, the Kings are pleased with the youngster’s efforts, but remaining consistent will be key.

While it would be great to see them make the playoffs, the Kings’ regular-season end result will not be a make-or-break situation for many of their youngsters, and that includes Kale Clague. So, for the remaining 18 games in the schedule, we should be excited to see what more the 22-year-old can bring to the table in Los Angeles.