Kings' GM says young players still need to be pushed

Kings' young veterans are making a difference as defending champions vie for a playoff spot

At his core, Dean Lombardi is a development guy.

Lives it. Thrives on it.

The Kings' general manager spoke about the learning curve of some of his less-veteran players, the ones who don't get quite as much attention on a day-to-day basis, the likes of Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan and Trevor Lewis.

Lombardi was standing in the hallway at Rogers Arena on Wednesday afternoon well after the team had an optional practice — which meant there was no whiteboard nearby for a tutorial and checking of the boxes, which he likes to do.

Development is not always an upward progression, but the three forwards, along with defenseman Brayden McNabb, offered significant contributions Tuesday in the Kings' 5-2 victory over Colorado.

"That's the fun part of about this," Lombardi said. "We think once they make it at 20, 21, 22, they're done. No way. You've got to push them, but they're good kids; they want to get better.

"They're not even in their prime. [Trevor] is just starting to enter his prime. We forget because they turn pro so young. If they've got their head in the right place and work hard, they're going to get better."

Lewis is the responsible two-way player that coaches, even a taskmaster such as Kings Coach Darryl Sutter, can fully appreciate. But trust, namely in the form of ice time from Sutter, is not easily earned.

"A combination, right?" Lombardi said. "It's the classic case. Play good, give me more ice time. Play me more and I'll play good. If you can figure that out, let me know. It's always the case. It usually goes hand in hand."

There was never the need for full-scale change for the youngsters even when the path wasn't smooth.

"That's part of the process," Lombardi said. "All these guys have an upside and they're going to have to become consistent. Not change their game but add to their game. They're a critical part to the identity of this team and they're taking another step."

Said Kings forward Justin Williams: "It could be a product of younger players getting better and more confident. Jordan has played quite a few years in this league now. He's feeling more comfortable out here and he's making a lot of plays.

"Once you make that first one and you get away with it, then you start to be more confident with the puck, hang on to it a little bit more. That's what we need. We need playmakers."

There were several scoring changes from the Colorado game, announced Wednesday morning, that impacted two Kings goals. An assist on Marian Gaborik's power-play goal was taken from captain Dustin Brown and went to Williams. That was on the Kings' first goal, which made it, 1-0.

The other change involved the third goal, initially credited to McNabb but changed to Clifford, with the assists going to Williams and defenseman Andrej Sekera.

After all that, Williams tied a career high for assists in a game (three), and Clifford tied a career-high for goals in a game (two). For Sekera, it was his first point since joining the Kings in a trade before the deadline. McNabb went from three points to two, meaning it was not his career high.

KINGS AT VANCOUVER

When: 7.

On the air: TV: FS West. Radio: 790.

Etc.: Center Mike Richards, waived after the All-Star break and with the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, N.H., has been training in El Segundo this week, according to the Kings' website. Lombardi told The Times that it was done according to plan, saying: "We're just testing him. He's going through some physical testing to see where he is at. It's part of the [process] of when we sent him down there."

Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter @reallisa

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