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Bernier Seeks 4-0 Record vs. Predators

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Bernier hasn’t exactly been a favorite son of Tennessee in the last 10 months.


Bernier will make his fourth career start in goal against Nashville when the Kings host the Predators tonight at STAPLES Center, and the initial three games have followed a similar theme: Bernier hasn’t given up much to the Predators.

How little? Well, Bernier is 3-0 against Nashvile and has stopped 88 of 90 shots. That works out to a 0.67 goals-against average and a .978 save percentage. Bernier shutout the Predators last month and has beaten them twice already this season.

In order to stay perfect against the Predators, Bernier will have to pull off a feat similar to the one he accomplished in the last meeting. When the Kings met Nashville on Dec. 18, the Predators had averaged 3.4 goals per game in a 8-0-1 streak.

Bernier stopped 29 of 30 shots and the Kings won 6-1.

Now, the Predators have won three consecutive games, and scored four goals in each, including Wednesday night’s 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

Previous success against Nashville earned Jonathan Bernier the start in goal tonight.
Kings coach Terry Murray will play the numbers. No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick faced Nashville three times last season, went 0-3 and allowed three goals in each game, and Murray said he takes into account a goalie’s history against particular teams.

``Absolutely,’’ Murray said. ``I had a goalie who was a backup goalie when I was coaching in Florida, and he had never lost to the Philadelphia Flyers. Kirk McLean. He never lost. The first time we went in there, he hadn't played in, I don't know, six months maybe. Maybe six weeks. But I put him in and he won. It was unbelievable. So I made a mistake. I talked about him postgame, and who do you think traded for him in the offseason? The New York Rangers.

``But I do look at the career record, absolutely. You look at it, probably, from all players' aspects. You can see that there are pretty decent numbers that some players pile up against other teams. What's the reason? I don't know the answer to it, but it does happen.''

INJURY UPDATES; GREENE IN DOUBT?
Matt Greene did not participate in Thursday’s morning skate. Murray said Greene was suffering from flu symptoms, and his availability for the game against Nashville was not known.

Injured players Willie Mitchell and Alexei Ponikarovsky did participate in the morning skate, and Murray pronounced both players as being ``real close’’ to returning to game action.

``Maybe both fall into the day-to-day category,’’ Murray said. ``It's encouraging to see what's going on with their hard work.’’

POWER PLAYERS ON MOVE?
Since reaching their low point of the season on the power play -- they ranked 27th in efficiency in the NHL in mid-December -- the Kings have improved their numbers of late, scoring on 27.5 percent of their power plays over the past 12 games.

That rate of success, projected over a full season, would easily lead the league, but Murray indicated that he’s looking at a possible change in personnel on the power play. ``I want to do something,’’ Murray said. ``I want to make a little bit of a change, with some personnel. I am a big believer, on the power play, that you've got to get it back up top and you've got to pound the puck in the net. I think we don't identify that option enough, and whenever it does come up top, we're not getting the puck to the net when the opportunity is there. So we've got to keep encouraging it.

``I really want to see us identify the blue line, not only on the power play but 5-on-5. With the way that teams are structured defensively, that's where the puck has to go a lot of the time. That's where plays happen. You get it to the net, you get the shot through, and even if it goes off a defenseman, you recover. You're on your toes, you get the pucks and you're creating second and third opportunities. So I'm going to address that.''

Murray said Thursday that Ponikarovsky likely would be added to the power-play unit upon his return. Based on their recent success, the Kings now rank 14th in the NHL in power-play efficiency, at 17.8 percent.

SUCCESS FOR SCHENN
All three Kings prospects who participated in the World Junior Championships came home with hardware. Maxim Kitsyn won a gold medal with Russia, Brayden Schenn won silver with Canada and Derek Forbort won bronze with the United States.

Schenn was the star of the tournament, as he led all scorers with 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in seven games. That tied the Canadian record for most points in a World Juniors tournament, initially set by Dale McCourt in 1977. Kitsyn tied for fifth among all scorers in the tournament, with nine points (five goals, four assists) in seven games.

Russia scored five third-period goals to overcome a three-goal deficit and record a stunning 5-3 win in Wednesday’s gold-medal game. Schenn scored Canada’s third goal and assisted on its first. Kitsyn scored Russia’s second goal.



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