|Terry Murray praised the effort of Brad Richardson after practice on Wednesday.
With three games left in the regular season, before the Kings’ first playoff appearance since 2002, coach Terry Murray probably would prefer a different subject.
But given what happened Tuesday night, when goalie Jonathan Quick
got pulled from the game early in the second period, and Murray subsequently brought Quick’s concentration and focus in question, the topic was unavoidable: do the Kings have concerns in goal?
If they do have concerns, Murray did a good job of masking them after Wednesday’s practice. For the second time in less than a week, he strongly declared Quick to be his No. 1 goalie and said Quick would lead the Kings into the playoffs.
Quick will tie the franchise single-season goalie record – held by Felix Potvin – with his 71st appearance on Thursday when the Kings host the Phoenix Coyotes.
Asked on Wednesday – as he has been periodically this season – whether there was any concern about Quick’s fatigue level or how he feels, Murray had a sharp reaction.
"I'm not quite sure what you mean, how he's feeling," Murray said. "Is he sensitive to the issue? Is he tired? Does he lack some focus and concentration? I'm not concerned about how he's feeling, quite honestly. He's our goaltender. He's the guy that's going to play for us. He's playing tomorrow, and he will get one of the two at the end this season, and then he'll be ready to go in the playoffs. So get yourself ready. That's what every other player has to do.
"You just have to get your focus, get your work in in practice, do your job in the game and prepare to play. The conversation, or the talks that we've had about the number of games played having an effect on him, well, I hope it's a positive effect on him. It's been a great year for him. He's had a lot of games. He's got 39 wins under his belt. He has played tremendous, a big part of this whole push to get into the playoffs this year."
Quick has already set the Kings’ single-season record with 39 wins, and improved goalie play is considered one of the major reasons why the Kings took the big step into the postseason this season, but Quick had remained under some scrutiny.
Quick is tied for fifth in the NHL in goalie wins but is 14th in goals-against average and tied for 27th in save percentage. Jonathan Bernier
has played three solid games for the Kings this season, but Murray said he’s not thinking about Bernier coming back.
"It doesn't make any sense to me at all, because Quick is going to play," Murray said. "We have Ersberg. He's our number two guy here, and Manchester, they've got work in front of them. They're in the postseason, and they have to go and play and get as deep as they can into the playoffs, and Bernier is a big part of the reason why they've had a great run. That's where he is. He's not a part of our team here. I don't want to get into hoping, wishing, speculating, because he's not here. It's as simple as that. We're moving on." SMALLER ROLE, HUGE EFFORT
There aren’t typically high expectations that accompany the role of fourth-line center, but Brad Richardson
certainly made the most of his opportunity on Tuesday night.
Richardson centered Raitis Ivanans and Rich Clune
on a fourth line that is generally expected to do little more but provide energy and physical play, but after the game and on Wednesday, Murray was effusive with his praise for the Richardson line.
"Richie's line was the reason why he came back and established the offensive game we did, in my estimation," Murray said. "Because of their play, every shift that they had in the first period, it was in the offensive zone, strong, recovering pucks, using your D, getting to the net.
"It was really good stuff, where we, as coaches on the bench, are saying, `OK, let's follow that up guys. This is what we need. Follow it up. Follow it up.' It's hard to take that away from the team when you're looking at some guys that are playing and doing the right things."
That’s nothing new for Richardson this season, who has proven to be one of the Kings’ most consistent and versatile players.
"He has done a tremendous job all year long," Murray said. "He's been the center on the fourth line, left wing, he's moved around, he's had a very important role with our hockey club this year. That's the kind of look good teams have to have." SHOWING IMPROVEMENT
Coming out of the Olympic break, Murray stressed the importance of the Kings raising their shot-on-goal totals, particularly after a four-game stretch in which the Kings averaged only 21.5 shots.
In their next seven games, though, the Kings averaged 30 shots per game, and on Tuesday they reached the 40-shot mark for only the fifth time this season.
"Last night, certainly, the second half of the game was very positive in that area," Murray said, "and I reinforced that this morning, with some video, in our team meeting. The shot mentality, the net presence. There was a lot of activity around their net last night, and that's the team that we have shown to be most of the year.
"Certainly early in the season, that was a big part of our success, goal scoring. That is starting to come back. It's creeping back since the Olympic break, and I think we're going to have a breakthrough in that area, because of the looks that we've showed in the past recent games."