Murray started the season with the desire to play backup goalie Jonathan Bernier
at least once a week, to keep No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick
rested as much as possible, but the play of each goalie has caused Murray to come up with a new plan.
The new plan? Play Quick.
Quick, scheduled to start tonight when the Kings host Detroit at STAPLES Center, enters the game among the NHL’s leaders in goals-against average (1.92) and save percentage (.928) and has been consistently strong throughout the season.
Bernier, meanwhile, has been inconsistent, with a 3.30 goals-against average and a .889 save percentage. He nearly had a shutout on Nov. 6 against Nashville but is 0-3 since then and allowed a total of 14 goals in those three games.
The Kings don’t play another set of back-to-back games until Dec. 26-27, and it’s highly possible that Quick will play the next eight games leading up to that series.
``I had it penciled in, through the start of January, and I've erased everything,’’ Murray said after Saturday’s morning skate. ``With the schedule being what it is right now, I'm looking at Quick playing a majority of those games. I like the way, though, that Bernier is practicing, the way his game is coming together again in the drills. So I'm not going to leave him sitting there the rest of the month and not give him some opportunities.
``We have some games coming up that I'm going to take a look at, certainly post-Christmas. There are four (games) in five nights. We've got to do something there.’’
Murray made it fairly clear, though, that he needs to see more from Bernier.
Bernier won the competition -- nominal as it might have been -- for the backup goalie spot during training camp, coming off a season in which he was the AHL’s top goalie.
But areas such as rebound control and seeing the puck through traffic, which had been strengths of Bernier last season, have popped up as areas of concern. Bernier has been working extensively in practice with coaches Kim Dillabaugh and Bill Ranford.
``It's a matter of inches with the goaltender,’’ Murray said. ``Laterally, staying a little too deep in the net instead of coming out to the top of the crease. It's a matter of six, seven inches. So he's got to focus on that. Again, there's conversations with the goalie coaches about it, and he's working at it. He's getting very focused on improving and getting those fundamentals down.’’
The Kings are expected to make only one lineup change tonight, but it’s an interesting one, as Davis Drewiske
will return to the lineup as the fourth-line left winger.
Drewiske, a natural defenseman, was a healthy scratch from the previous game but will replace winger Kevin Westgarth
in the lineup. The rest of the Kings’ lines and defensive pairs are expected to remain the same as in the previous game.
Drewiske, who has zero goals and five assists in 23 games this season, played at least one game on the wing last season.
Murray also attributed the lineup change to his belief that the Kings don’t need a ``heavyweight’’ -- Westgarth -- in the lineup against the Red Wings.
``The other part of it is, Harrold had a real good game the other night,’’ Murray said. ``I liked the way he scored, and he played well. He and Jack (Johnson) seemed to hit it off, any time they were paired together, and they had a good game. I don't want to change that up. It gives us the flexibility now, with a seventh defenseman there, if needed.’’STAYING PUT
Brayden Schenn returned to his junior team yesterday but Kyle Clifford
, the Kings’ other junior-eligible player, seems to be affirming his spot with the Kings more and more.
Clifford, 19, was a healthy scratch in four of this season’s first seven games but will play in his 18th consecutive game tonight. Cllfford started out as a fourth-line winger but has been elevated to the third line and has seen his ice time increase as well.
``I think he has played very effectively for us,’’ Murray said. ``He's on the left side with Handzus recently, and he has become an effective player with composure with the puck, skating, carrying, making plays, seeing the ice, getting the puck in and getting a forecheck going.
``Is that where he should be, throughout the rest of the year? I can't answer that, but he certainly has impressed all of us, as a coaching staff, and I like what I'm seeing.’’
The Kings will face a decision with Clifford shortly. Alexei Ponikarovksy (broken finger) is likely to return within the next week, and it’s highly possible that he will reclaim the third-line left-wing spot that Clifford has been filling in his absence.