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Goaltenders Even Down the Stretch

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
At a time in the season in which many coaches simply hope to have one solid goalie, the Kings -- at least based on recent results -- have two goalies to whom they can turn.

The question is, down the stretch, which goalie will play more?

With the Kings in an ultra-tight battle for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, both Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier figure to get significant playing time down the stretch. Quick has a 2.22 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage this season, while Bernier has a 2.56 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage.

Bernier got the call Thursday against Phoenix and had a 25-save shutout. Quick did a solid job on Saturday against Vancouver, as he stopped 33 of 35 shots in a loss.

Jonathan Bernier will appear in net tonight for the Kings.
Now, the Kings turn back to Bernier, who will start in goal when the Kings host the Dallas Stars tonight in a critical Pacific Division showdown at STAPLES Center.

``Both goalies are good,’’ Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``Bernier had a shutout the other night. I think his game has really stepped up here, from the start of the year. With (games) every second day, coming through this month, very intense games and both goalies playing well like they are, it's a great opportunity to use those guys on a rotation, right now, that's going to get us through to the end, when I have to make a decision (as) to what we're going to do.''

For the first time, Murray seemed to open the door to the idea of short-term equality between the goalies. Quick entered the season as the clear-cut No. 1 goalie and has started 47 games, compared to Bernier’s 18.

The Kings are expected to make a couple more lineup-combination changes, with only the first line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Penner and Justin Williams remaining intact.

Dustin Brown moves up to play right wing on the second line, alongside Ryan Smyth and Jarret Stoll. Alexei Ponikarovsky moves up to the third line to play with Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds. The fourth line is expected to be centered by Trevor Lewis, with wingers Kyle Clifford and Brad Richardson.

The move, in part, reflects the increasingly solid play of Ponikarovsky, who also will move back to his natural left wing after spending time on the right side.

``I liked the fourth line the way it was set up, with Clifford and Lewis and Ponikarovsky,’’ Murray said. ``I think they've given us very good energy in the last half-dozen games. Important shifts. They've actually, I feel, turned some games around and broke a game open, when we follow up with that kind of intensity and energy.

``There's good, physical play. Poni, he's responding to a challenge. He's working very hard, playing pretty physical and getting those bumps whenever the opportunity is there. And you get a reward for that. So there's probably a different look for him tomorrow. He gets moved up to a higher line, to play with Zeus, and hopefully he responds and keeps going, actually. Not responds, but keeps going with the same kind of intensity and the same kind of purpose to his game.’’

In practice on Sunday, Murray took a few moments to chat with Penner, acquired a week ago in a trade with Edmonton.

Murray said he reviewed with Penner a defensive assignment that led to Daniel Sedin’s game-winning goal Saturday night against Vancouver, but also wanted to encourage Penner to settle in and not try to do too much.

``It's been a pretty intense, probably month, maybe longer for him,’’ Murray said. ``His name surfaced almost every time there was a conversation about Edmonton with the trade deadline approaching. Now it's done and over, and he can become a part of the L.A. Kings as quickly as possible just by relaxing and getting to know your teammates.''

Drew Doughty earned a 10-minute misconduct late in Saturday's game.
Drew Doughty received a 10-minute misconduct penalty late in Saturday’s game for his verbal treatment of officials. Doughty was upset both with a perceived non-call on Vancouver’s game-winning goal and with his own diving penalty a few minutes later.

After the game, a somewhat sheepish Doughty, without prompting, said, ``That’s one thing I’ve got to work on. I get frustrated with the refs too often, and sometimes I say things I wish I didn’t say. It’s something I’ve got to learn from.’’

Murray was asked if he had any issues with Doughty’s attitude or treatment of officials.

``No, he's been really good with that, I think,’’ Murray said. ``I know he got a little intense there at the end, because of the way it all unfolded, but overall he's been a real high-class guy with the officiating, on the ice and on the bench. Never had an issue with it before.’’

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