Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a start since early November. Only problem for Bernier is, he is playing behind Jonathan Quick, who is having a Vezina Trophy-caliber season.
For the Kings, that’s not a problem at all.
The Kings now have two young goalies they are comfortable in starting any game. But with only 17 games remaining in the season — following Saturday’s 4-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks — the Kings are outside of the top eight in the Western Conference, and need to be at their best every night.
For Kings coach Darryl Sutter, does that mean riding Quick, who has already started 55 of the Kings’ 65 games, or does it mean giving increased work to Bernier, who shut out the Minnesota Wild last week?
“(The rest of the season is) probably by feel,” Sutter said. “But you’re comfortable, because you’ve got a guy (Quick) who is having a great year, but I’m also comfortable with the fact that Bernier, I’m not concerned about him. It’s not so much looking forward, it’s looking back.
“You’re not going to, all of a sudden, become this magical offensive weapon with 18 games left. So you need great goaltending, and I’m comfortable with the fact that both guys can do that. We’re lucky. Not many teams can say that.”
Sutter’s next choice will be an interesting one, as the Kings play at Nashville on Tuesday. Quick has never beaten the Predators — including a 2-1 loss late last month — while Bernier has only lost to the Predators once.
–The Kings’ first line of center Anze Kopitar and wingers Dustin Brown and Justin Williams has been under major pressure, largely because the Kings — the lowest-scoring team in the NHL this season — haven’t had much depth at forward. Mike Richards has been a contributor on the second, but hasn’t been paired with productive wingers for the most part. The Kings hoped to change that last week, when they acquired former 40-goal scorer Jeff Carter from Columbus. Carter has been on a line with Richards, his former teammate in Philadelphia, and rookie winger Dwight King.
“Just having Carter in the lineup gives you more of that balance,” coach Darryl Sutter said. “It’s a better team. From ice level, you see more size, more speed, more hockey sense. So that’s the balance right there. It’s not so much what he can do, but how it spreads it out then.”
–There is continued, but slow, progress for two injured Kings wingers, Simon Gagne and Scott Parse. Parse, who hasn’t played since Nov. 8 and had hip surgery in early December, isn’t expected to play again this season, but Parse did get back on the ice Friday for some light conditioning skating. Gagne, out of the lineup since he suffered a concussion during a Dec. 26 game, has been skating for the past three weeks, but doesn’t know when he might be able to return to full-team practices or game action.
“It’s getting better,” Gagne said. “It’s not getting worse. That’s a good sign. Slowly, we’re increasing what we’re doing on the ice, and responding to that.”
QUOTE TO NOTE: “When you break it down, the reason we’re not up there (in the standings) right now is that this team got 17 out of, I think, 36 points at home to start the year. Really, we shouldn’t even be in it.” — Kings coach Darryl Sutter, on the Western Conference playoff race.
ROSTER REPORT PLAYER NOTES: –RW Jordan Nolan is no lightweight, at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, but the Kings don’t necessarily want him dropping the gloves. Nolan showed his mettle last week in Minnesota, when he fought with Wild D Marco Scandella, but Sutter said he doesn’t want Nolan fighting simply for the sake of fighting. “There’s like five or six of those guys left in the league, (to play) two or three minutes a night,” Sutter said. “We’d rather those guys be on the ice, because then we can take advantage of it.” Nolan, son of former NHL coach and player Ted Nolan, has settled into a fourth-line role alongside C Colin Fraser and LW Kyle Clifford. –LW Kyle Clifford returned to the lineup after a one-game absence as a healthy scratch, as Clifford replaced RW Brad Richardson. Clifford, at 21, is the youngest player on the Kings roster, and has been a lineup regular for the past two seasons but recently had a couple bad games, in which he took late penalties and made a couple high-profile turnovers that led to goals. “He’s got a role,” coach Darryl Sutter said. “He’s got a clear role, and if that role slips, then he becomes a good American league player. That’s clear. You have to make clear to him what his role is. It’s the same as a captain or a physical defenseman. As soon as they step out of that role — and young guys do it all the time — you have to reinforce it.” –D Slava Voynov has, so far, earned strong reviews from the coaching staff since taking over last week as the full-time replacement for D Jack Johnson, who was traded to Columbus for RW Jeff Carter. Kings coach Darryl Sutter is particularly pleased with the rookie’s plus-7 rating in 37 games this season. “The one thing about Slava that nobody talks about is, the kid is a high ‘plus’ player, and that’s not by accident,” Sutter said. “When you’ve got high ‘plus’ players and high ‘minus’ players on a low-scoring team, that’s either a good thing or a bad thing. When he’s a high ‘plus’ player, that’s even strength, so that means he’s creating a lot and doing a lot offensively, and at the same time, understanding what he has to do the other way, to play a 200-foot game.”
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.