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KINGS NOTEBOOK (DEC. 16)

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings

The Kings hit the ice today for practice at 11 a.m. following last night’s dramatic 3-2 shootout loss to the NHL-leading San Jose Sharks. The point improved the Kings to 13-12-5 for 31 points, putting the team in a four-way tie with Minnesota, Colorado and Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff spot. Meanwhile, the win by the Sharks gave them 52 points after 30 games (25-3-2), the most at that mark by any team in NHL history. The 1929-30 Boston Bruins had held the previous record with 51 points.

The Kings have points in three straight (2-0-1), in five of the last six games (3-1-2) and are 0-2-1 vs. San Jose this year, falling 3-1 in the season opener on Oct. 11 and 1-0 the next night at STAPLES Center. San Jose has outscored the Kings, 7-3 in three games, not bad considering San Jose has outscored all of its opponents this season, 110-70.

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan to say about the Kings following last night’s game, but the big news from the evening, however, was the loss of Erik Ersberg .

ERSBERG OUT; QUICK IN

The extent of the groin injury that sidelined Ersberg last night is still unknown as the 26-year-old netminder missed practice today to get an MRI. The injury was severe enough to cause the Kings to recall goaltender Jonathan Quick from Manchester on Tuesday.

Quick , 22, leads Monarchs goaltenders in games played (14), minutes (827), goals-against-average (2.68) and save percentage (.919). He is also tied for the team lead (with Jonathan Bernier ) with six wins and has an overall record of 6-5-2. Among AHL leaders, Quick ranks 11th overall in save percentage and 20th overall in goals-against-average, while among rookies he ranks second in save percentage and fourth in goals-against-average.

The 6’-1”, 216-pounder from Milford, Connecticut, made his Kings and NHL debut last season playing in three games and recording a 1-2-0 record, a 3.84 goals-against-average and a .855 save percentage. He recorded his first NHL win on Dec. 6, 2007, against Buffalo.

To make room for Quick on the roster, the Kings placed center Brad Richardson on the IR. Richardson, who has missed the last six games due to a foot injury, played in nine games with the Kings this season, recording one point (an assist) and seven penalty minutes.

INJURY CREATES AN OPPORTUNITY…SOUND FAMILIAR?

The last significant injury that altered the Kings roster was the injury to Jack Johnson in the second game of the season. That injury resulted in the waiver wire pick up of defenseman Kyle Quincey.

“When an injury happens, it allows other guys to step up,” said Sean O’Donnell . “That is the only good thing that can come out of a major injury, it forces other guys to step up and forces the team to not rely on one guy and [management to] look at other options, and they did.

“Because of that when Jack returns, we will be stronger for it.”

Quincey leads the team with 16 assists and is fourth on the team with 18 points (2-16=18), the most amongst blue-liners.

This time, it will be Jason LaBarbera and Quick who are given an opportunity.

“Any time you have an opportunity to play a bunch of games you want to be the guy that is in there for the team, battling every night,” LaBarbera said. “It’s been pretty effective this year so far, how it’s worked out. Obviously you don’t like to see anyone get hurt but hopefully he gets back soon because he has been playing well. It just means that I get to go out there and get a few chances.”

LaBarbera is 5-7-3 on the season with a 2.70 GAA and a .899 SV% in 17 games this season.

SHOOTOUT WOES CONTINUE

Last night’s shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks dropped the Kings mark to 1-4 in the shoot out this season, allowing nine goals on 14 attempts while converting on 3-of-15.

“You would like to get better results at the end of the day, but I also know that with the pressure that is there on young players going into shootouts, its different than doing it in junior or doing it in practice,” head coach Terry Murray said. “They are going to be good at it someday, they have the moves, they show it in practice, but to carry it over into a game situation its a whole different ball game. But you have to work through it. You gotta understand that whenever you do it and it doesn't work for you, like [Wayne Simmonds] last night, maybe he is going to change his plan of attack. He made the same move before and scored a beautiful goal on it, but maybe last night his positioning wasn't where it needed to be. Same from the goaltenders side of it, its not an easy thing."

LaBarbera, who entered this season with a 4-1 mark having stopped 10-of-15 for his career in the shootout, has posted an 0-3 mark, surrendering six goals on seven attempts this season.

“I would say it’s a mental thing. I’m thinking about it too much,” LaBarbera said. “A lot of it is timing and I don’t have my timing down now. I’ve been trying to be too patient and getting myself caught sometimes. It’s one of those things where you over think it and screw yourself over. I am just thinking about it too much and instead of reacting to it, I am more worried about the guy shooting so I get stagnant. I am not really in any kind of position to react to a deke. I mean I would rather the guys deke than shoot but it obviously hasn’t been working out too well.”

LaBarbera has vowed to work through this “shootout slump” and takes each loss to heart.

“You play great for 65 minutes and then it goes to a skills competition. Don’t get me wrong as a fan I love it, I love watching it on tv, or on the bench watching its exciting. But when you’re in there…when you win it’s exciting too, but when you lose it’s a tough pill to swallow. Especially if you are a goalie. I kind of take it personally sometimes, and it is pretty frustrating.”

ABOUT THE RANGERS

The Kings will host the NY Rangers Wednesday night, whom lead the Atlantic Division with a 20-11-2 mark for 42 points.

“A team that has had a tremendous start to their season in the early going, my goodness they were almost unstoppable,” head coach Terry Murray said. “They are a good defending team, they have one of the top goalies in the game. You really have to hang in there if you want to score some goals against this guy because he is a battler and a competitor.

“On the other side of it, they have a team that can come with a lot of speed, a lot of tenacity; they have a tremendous amount of skill. You have to come in with the right mindset.”

Murray, who has coached in the Eastern Conference with Philadelphia, Washington and Florida, has become quite familiar with the Rangers over the years, posting a 24-28-3 all-time mark against the team from the Big Apple.

As has been the trend all year, Murray continues to focus on what the Kings need to do as opposed to who their opponent is.

“On our side of it we have to make sure we have a checking mindset at the beginning of the game and match their intensity, match their speed because they have a great deal of speed. Zherdev, Gomez and Drury are real top players in the game, and Naslund is there. So a checking mindset is something that is going to be very important for us. What we have hung our hat on from the very beginning is becoming a better defensive team, so if we do that, we will check properly and get our opportunities going the other way. Because they are a team that will try to have control and attack off the rush, so if you have your stick and proper body positioning on those guys then you can get some pucks going the other way. You can get on the attack and have a pretty good transition game.”

ON THE ROAD

After Wednesday’s game against the Rangers, the Kings will begin a three-game, six-day road trip through Buffalo, Detroit and Columbus. The Kings are just 3-6-0 on the road so far this season.

“We all know the schedule is what it is, we have a lot of road games at the tail end. It’s going to be a challenge for us but that’s just the way it is because of building availability," Murray said. "Road trips are good. Good for the team. It comes a little bit later for us than we would like, we would probably want some of this a little bit earlier in the season so we could get a bonding trip where players get to know each other and hang out with each other. But it’s here and we’ll take advantage of it. We have to play good, but you have to play good every night whether its home or away.”

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