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Bernier in Net Tonight to Begin Homestand

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
In the context of the Kings’ six-game homestand, which starts tonight against Minnesota at STAPLES Center, an unpleasant subject was brought up.

Kings coach Terry Murray was reminded of the Kings’ last extended homestand, a season-long eight game string that ended with only two wins for the Kings.

``Is that all it was, just eight (games) before?’’ Murray said.

Yes, although for Murray and the Kings, it probably felt like eight weeks. The lack of home success in January threatened to knock the Kings out of the Western Conference playoff race. Now they’re back in it, and now they have a second chance for a run of success at home, in six critical games against Western Conference opponents.

Over the next 12 days, the Kings host Minnesota, Colorado, Detroit, Phoenix, Vancouver and Dallas. That’s three games against teams that are in the top four in the West, and three other games against teams that remain in the playoff hunt.

The challenge for the Kings will be to build on the success they had on the road in February, when they went 6-1-3 in a season-long run of 10 consecutive road games.

``What is important here, and we talked about it last night, pregame, is that we bring focus, we bring our concentration and we remember how hard we had to work on the road to get our points,’’ Murray said. ``We had a successful road trip, in my mind, and it was not easy. There were a lot of hard buildings to play in, some of the premier players in the game, and everybody pulled their weight and had to do their job the right way, and the team ended up being successful because of that detail, attention to detail.

``That's what is important to bring home here. Don't back off on the intensity, stay humble, stay confident, and that way the intensity and the details are taken care of.’’

Jonathan Bernier will start in net tonight against Minnesota.  On Feb. 1 Bernier shut out the Wild in a 1-0 shootout loss.
(AP Photo/Jim Mone)
With the Kings facing the second of back-to-back games, backup goalie Jonathan Bernier gets the start tonight against the Wild.

The Kings will make one other lineup change, with Alexei Ponikarovsky replacing Kevin Westgarth as the fourth-line right winger. Ponikarovsky had been made a healthy scratch on Wednesday when winger Marco Sturm returned to the lineup.

``Westie went into the lineup for a specific role last night, against Anaheim,’’ Murray said. ``It had nothing to do with Poni's performance. Actually, I kind of liked what he was giving us over the road trip. So we'll just make that switch, and it's four lines, hopefully throughout the 60 minutes, that can contribute tonight.’’

Sturm will remain in the lineup as the first-line left winger, alongside Anze Kopitar and Wayne Simmonds. Sturm returned against the Ducks after being sidelined with knee tendinitis and played close to 17 minutes with one shot on goal.

``I think this will be an important game, to get a look at him,’’Murray said. ``Then, as we get another day off tomorrow and get ready to play again, these next two games are probably a better opportunity for me to look at him. But I thought he played pretty good last night. There was jumping on some loose pucks, making some plays happen. He showed good composure with the puck. I know there's probably a better game in there, still, but this is the first one to get his feet under himself in quite a while.’’

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