Jeff Carter and Jack Johnson could look across the ice and see plenty of familiar faces Thursday night.
Carter and Johnson were traded for each other in the biggest deal in advance of this season’s trade deadline, as the Kings sent Johnson and a first-round pick to Columbus for Carter on Feb. 23.
The teams faced each other on Thursday for the first time since the trade, and the Blue Jackets won 3-1. Johnson scored a goal and Carter didn’t get on the score sheet.
Carter, who had been traded from Philadelphia to Columbus the previous June, got a negative reaction from the Columbus fans. Reports had surfaced, well before the trade took place, that Carter was unhappy with the Blue Jackets and wanted to be moved.
“I don’t know if that’s completely true,” Carter said. “Obviously when I got traded from Philly, it was hard on me, something that I didn’t expect. Over time, you get over that. I came in here (Columbus) with an open mind. There were a lot of expectations around the team, from the fans and the city and stuff like that. For whatever reason, it didn’t really work out that way, and things just started to snowball from there.
“When you’re losing games, like we did, and giving up leads late, it’s pretty tough on guys. It’s hard to kind of keep going. It was a tough year.”
a long-term contract extension last season — but also has spoken highly of his new situation.
“I’ve got a lot of guys on the (Kings) who’ll probably be lifelong friends, but we’re no longer teammates,” Johnson told The Columbus Dispatch before Thursday’s game. “They’re the enemy (on the ice).”
–Jonathan Bernier got the start in goal for the Kings on Thursday, giving Jonathan Quick a rare chance to rest. Quick has started 56 of the Kings’ 67 games this season, putting him among the top five NHL goalies in games and minutes played. The Kings value Bernier, whom they see as a possible future No. 1 NHL goalie, but Quick is on track to surpass the 60 games he started last season.
“Is that fair to Bernie? Probably not, but Bernie is not stupid,” Kings goalie coach Bill Ranford said. “When a guy has been, basically, a Vezina and a Hart candidate from the start of the season, it’s not fun for the other guy to sit and watch, but you also appreciate what he has done.”
Bernier played well Thursday but allowed three goals.
–Are the Kings guilty of playing to the level of their competition? This season, the Kings are 15-9-5 against teams that are currently in a playoff position in the Western Conference, compared to a 9-9-3 record against teams that are outside the top eight in the West. In terms of the current standings, the Kings have nine games remaining against West teams that are in the top eight and five games remaining against non-playoff teams from the West (they also have one game against the East, against playoff-bound Boston).
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I only had a short time here, but there are great guys over there. They’re a good team, a team that kind of underachieved when I was here. They’ve started to play some pretty good hockey here, as of late.” — Kings winger Jeff Carter, on returning to Columbus to face his former team.
ROSTER REPORT PLAYER NOTES: –G Jonathan Bernier got a rare start for the Kings and a chance to build off some recent success. Bernier has spent the season backing up G Jonathan Quick, who has posted some of the best stats in the NHL. Before Thursday, Bernier had started only one of the Kings’ previous 13 games.
“We also need some big games out of Bernie,” Kings goalie coach Bill Ranford said. “You need that time to spell off your No. 1 guy. That’s how it works, to get in the playoffs.”
Entering Thursday, Bernier had allowed two or fewer goals in each of his previous four starts. Against the Blue Jackets, Bernier allowed three goals on 36 shots.
–RW Trevor Lewis is thriving much more under current coach Darryl Sutter than he did under former coach Terry Murray. In the first half of the season, Lewis regularly played fewer than 10 minutes per game, in a fourth-line role; and in December, Lewis was a healthy scratch in eight of the nine games before Murray was fired.
Under Sutter, Lewis has moved up to the third line and is playing more than 15 minutes per game. On Tuesday in Nashville, Lewis scored the winning goal, his first goal in 16 games.
“Good to see him score,” Sutter said. “Good to see him with a smile on his face.”
–RW Jordan Nolan, a former seventh-round draft pick, was considered a marginal NHL prospect at the start of this season, but has now spent nearly a month with the Kings and seems to have settled into a fourth-line role alongside LW Kyle Clifford and C Colin Fraser.
At the start of his stint, Nolan spent some time on the second line, but his 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame is made for a checking-line role. Nolan has some playmaking skills, though. In Tuesday’s game at Nashville, Nolan showed nice poise in the offensive zone when he held the puck, then pushed a nice pass toward D Drew Doughty for a one-timer goal.
“He made a good play there (on Doughty’s goal),” Sutter said. “I expect him to that. It’s basic puck possession, and not turning the puck over.”
MEDICAL WATCH: –Simon Gagne (concussion) was put on injured reserve on Dec. 28 and is out indefinitely. –Scott Parse (hip) was put on injured reserve on Nov. 9 and underwent surgery on Dec. 2. Parse will be out until at least early April and might be out for the season.