The Kings have allowed 2006 first-rounder Jonathan Bernier to ripen in the minors for the last two seasons. But before he could claim the No. 1 job in L.A., 2005 third-rounder Jonathan Quick jumped in and grabbed it.
Quick has a team-record 39 victories this season and is one of the big reasons the Kings are poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. But after tearing up the AHL with Manchester this season, Bernier has played well enough in two appearances with the Kings to get some people wondering if he and not Quick should be their goaltender in the playoffs.
Bernier beat Dallas 2-1 in a shootout in early March when Quick was away from the team to be with his wife, who was giving birth. He stopped all 34 shots he faced Tuesday as the Kings won 2-0 at Nashville -- a performance good enough to earn him another start Thursday against Vancouver at the Staples Center.
But Murray went to great pains to say that Quick, who had played 68 of the Kings' first 76 games, was getting a little rest -- not a benching.
"This is the first opportunity that I've been able to back away from Quicker for a little while," Murray said Wednesday. "His opportunity just to get some quality practice time in, for several days, is there because of Jonathan Bernier's performance in last night's game. He was solid, he had a shutout and I'm going to reward that performance with the game tomorrow against Vancouver.
"I want to take advantage of that solid performance and, again, give Quicker the opportunity to get specific in some drills and just go back at those looks for a few days in a row."
Murray said Quick will be back in goal for the Kings Saturday night, and made no bones about who's No. 1.
"Quick is our No. 1 goaltender," Murray said. "There's no gray area on that one."
They're in -- Assuming the Kings finish off their run to the playoffs, the NHL will have a pair of teams in the postseason that haven't been there since 2002. The Phoenix Coyotes punched their ticket to the playoffs last Saturday when Calgary lost during the day -- but made sure they couldn't be accused of backing in by demolishing the Colorado Avalanche 6-2 before a sellout crowd at Jobing.com Arena.
The Coyotes finished 14th in the West last season, went through a bankruptcy hearing last summer and changed coaches a week before the season started. But despite their surprising run to the postseason, GM Don Maloney isn't satisfied with merely breaking the franchise's playoff drought.
"We're not satisfied just to pat ourselves on the back," he told the team's Web site. "I know we've had a good season to date and we've set some franchise records, and that's great and wonderful and all that. But really it's meaningless come early April when we wipe the slates clean."
Unlike last season, when the Coyotes were one of the NHL's youngest teams, this season's group has a lot more experience. Maloney added several veterans during the summer and bolstered his team with a half-dozen deals at the trade deadline. He's optimistic that his team can do more than just make the playoffs.
"What I'm excited about is that we have goaltending – a goaltender that's won in the playoffs (and) an experienced goaltender that's had a fantastic year in Ilya Bryzgalov," he said. "We have a mature defense that's played in the playoffs. We shouldn't be intimidated by playing anyone. And I think some of the moves that we were able to pull together at the trade deadline have added secondary scoring to a team that really was offensively challenged through most of the year.
"So, I look at this group and I'm saying ... 'Why not us?'... Yeah, we're happy to get to the playoffs, but why can't we win in the playoffs and win now. So it's an exciting time of the year. It's great for this franchise. We're getting tremendous support out in the community now, but we have to do our jobs. We have to win."
No Joe -- From the time Joe Thornton arrived in a trade from Boston early in the 2005-06 season, the San Jose Sharks had never known what it was like to be without him.
Thornton showed up for work every day -- 379 games in a row -- until this past Sunday, when a lower-body injury he sustained the previous night forced him to sit out the Sharks' game against Colorado. Thornton was out of the lineup again Wednesday when the Sharks visited Dallas.
The Sharks aren't trying to pretend they're the same team without Thornton that they are with their No. 1 center. They're just doing their best to win without him -- as they did in a 4-3 win over the Avs at the Shark Tank.
"Everyone has to step up," said forward Devin Setoguchi, who had a pair of goals in the victory over Colorado. "We have a pretty good team with the forwards out there. Hopefully he'll be back soon. Guys go down with injuries, even Joe."
Coach Todd McLellan said the win over the Avs was a good confidence-booster for his club, showing his players that they can win without their top center.
"Any team is going to miss one of their best players," he said. "We found a way to get it done without him (Thornton) and that's important for our confidence."
Thornton did go with the team when the Sharks left for their four-game road trip and expects to be back before the club returns to San Jose for the last two games of the regular season.
"I'm going on the trip, so hopefully sometime on the trip," Thornton said when asked when he could play. "Every day I wake up it will feel better and better."
Nick's knack -- Nick Bonino has gone from college kid to NHL player in a very short time. Two days after Boston University was eliminated from the Hockey East playoffs, he signed a contract with the Anaheim Ducks -- and five days after that, he was in the lineup thanks to a recurrence of Ryan Getzlaf's ankle injury.
Bonino, BU's leading scorer this season, didn't score in his debut -- but he did in his second game, getting a power-play goal in a 3-1 win over Dallas at the Honda Center. One of the assists on Bonino's goal went to Teemu Selanne, who had been honored before the game for reaching the 600-goal mark and who scored his first NHL goal when Bonino was 4-years-old.
"It's incredible," Bonino said. "I grew up playing him on NHL videogames and now my first goal is assisted by him. That is something you can't really script. It's unbelievable."
Bonino knocked in a feed from Selanne on the power play for his first goal. Not long afterwards, TV cameras caught the two sharing a moment on the bench. "He said he stills remembers his first goal," Bonino said of Selanne. "I told him I'd probably remember this one as long as I'm playing and as long as I live too."
Bonino hopes to use the handful of games left in the regular season to soak up as much knowledge as he can from his new teammates -- and earn himself a full-time NHL job next season.
"I just want to learn what I can from everyone and see how guys prepare, how guys play. I'll keep working hard if I'm in the lineup playing or not. It's a good taste of the NHL for training camp next year." -- Nick Bonino
Around the Pacific -- Los Angeles Kings President of Business Operations Luc Robitaille received the Medal of Honour of the National Assembly on March 31 as part of a special presentation in Montreal. "This is a tremendous honor and not one that I take lightly," Robitaille said. "I am also thrilled to have my family as part of this special event in my native Quebec." ... Phoenix signed defenseman Chris Summers, its first-rounder in the 2006 Entry Draft, after the University of Michigan was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament. Summers played 163 games with the Wolverines and was captain this season. He finished with 16 goals and 60 points in 163 career games. ... San Jose was the only NHL team to put two players on the AHL's All-Rookie team. Both forward Logan Couture (who's played a few games with the Sharks) and goaltender Alex Stalock were honored. Couture, the Sharks' top pick in the 2007 draft, had 53 points in 42 games, while Stalock set an AHL rookie record with 37 victories. ... Dallas was 0-5-0 against Los Angeles this season and had scored just once in 20 power-play tries -- until last Saturday, when the Stars went 4-for-7 in a 4-1 win at the Staples Center. ... Anaheim, which went without an AHL affiliate this season, signed a multiyear deal with Syracuse that will begin in the 2010-11 season. The Ducks were affiliated with Portland from 2005-08 and with the now-defunct Iowa Chops in 2008-09. Without an AHL affiliate this season, the Ducks had to find takers for their farmhands -- never an ideal situation.