Daily News Kings host New Jersey to kick off 5-game homestand

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Football season might be over, but the Kings will offer fans a Sunday matinee on ice when they take on the New Jersey Devils at Crypto.com Arena.

The two clubs clashed Feb. 15 with the Kings edging the Devils 2-1 in Newark, but many of the storylines in that affair have already evaporated.

New Jersey star Jack Hughes had a war of words with Viktor Arvidsson, reaching infamy with his “people pay to watch me play” comment, which instantaneously became the stuff of ridicule and memes.

While Hughes, who notched three points but flubbed a game-tying penalty shot with two seconds left in a 4-3 loss to the Ducks on Friday, will be in action, Arvidsson will not (lower-body). Mikey Anderson’s brother once played for the Devils but has since moved to Toronto and then Chicago, while Mikey himself was also injured (as were Adrian Kempe, Carl Grundstrom and Pheonix Copley).

Like Anderson did, Brandt Clarke has a brother, Graeme, in the Devils’ system, but he has played just one NHL game as a forward who was selected in the third round. Brandt Clarke was a lottery pick on defense for the Kings, but hasn’t found playing time in significantly longer supply. He’s dressed in just 13 games this season, including seven since the All-Star break, when the Kings dismissed Todd McLellan and promoted Jim Hiller to head coach.

“Those first couple of games when you’re coming in and out, you don’t want to be a liability or anything out there. That’s in your head,” Clarke told Eric Stephens of The Athletic. “I don’t think I was doing anything wrong but, yeah, I just didn’t have that ability. I wasn’t sure. I just wanted to be safe here.”

Of those seven games, the Kings have won six, while losing three of the four contests that Clarke took in from the pressbox. In those three losses, the Kings mustered just four goals and went zero for eight on the power play. In the six wins with Clarke, they outscored opponents 22-10, converting at a 41% clip with the extra man (seven of 17).

Individually, Clarke has five points in those six victories, including at least three highlight-reel contributions. His breakaway overtime game-winner after exiting the penalty box in Boston may have been the foremost among them, but his stretch pass off the end boards for Pierre-Luc Dubois against Columbus and his foray into the rush that he finished with a jaw-dropping deke in Vancouver moved the needle as well.

“Now, I’m like, I can be safe and help out offensively. That’s just kind of what it is,” Clarke, 21, told Stephens.

Yet even in the match in which he scored his second head-turning goal in less than two weeks, Clarke was part of a seven-defenseman alignment. It was the type that the Kings had eschewed previously while they insisted on rotating Clarke with Jordan Spence in all but two games where both dressed due to absences (once when Matt Roy welcomed a child and once right after Anderson was injured).

“I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Clarkie,”said Drew Doughty, who picked up a goal plus career assists Nos. 500 and 501 in Vancouver. “He probably only had four shifts a period or something like that, and it’s probably something he’s not used to. But he stayed a pro. He did whatever it took and then he came up with a huge goal for us.”

While Arthur Kaliyev could draw into their forward group, the Kings seemed likely to ice the same configuration they did in Vancouver, where Quinton Byfield played a season-high 22:49 and contributed two assists. He, Doughty, leading goal-scorer Trevor Moore, top point-producer Kevin Fiala and team captain Anze Kopitar all turned in multipoint performances to salvage two points from a three-game road trip.

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They’ll look to keep that stone rolling in the first of five games at home against a Devils club that is paced in goals by former King Tyler Toffoli, in points by Jesper Bratt and in tempo by Hughes, whose brother Luke has been a formidable addition to the New Jersey blue line as a rookie and whose other brother Quinn has topped all defensemen in scoring with Vancouver.

New Jersey at Kings​


When: 12:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Crypto.com Arena

TV: TNT, Max

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