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Kings Notebook (Dec. 8)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Erik Ersberg will start on Wednesday at San Jose, his first start since Nov. 11 when he stopped 22-of-24 in a 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

There will be an Erik Ersberg sighting in San Jose on Wednesday night.

Practice Report

Ersberg, who hasn’t played a minute in goal since Nov. 13, will get his third start of the season on Wednesday against San Jose. With the Kings facing games on consecutive nights, Jonathan Quick is expected to start Thursday at home against Phoenix.

An Ersberg start had been expected in one of those two games, and after practice Tuesday, coach Terry Murray explained why he chose the San Jose game.

"Well, it's a road game," Murray said. "I'm a big believer in playing my best players at home, and I know Quicker is my No. 1 guy. The home game, to me, is an important game, as this one is, but I always think that if you're going to have that kind of decision that you have to make, I will consistently go with the home game for the No. 1 goalie."

Ersberg has not appeared in a home game this season. He started on Oct. 14 against the New York Rangers and allowed four goals in a loss. Shortly thereafter, Murray said he regretted starting Ersberg in that game.

Ersberg didn’t play again until Nov. 11, when he started and allowed two goals in a victory over Carolina. Quick got the start two nights later in Atlanta, but got pulled in the second period, and Ersberg allowed four goals in 26 minutes.

Outside of practices, and sitting at the end of the bench, Ersberg hasn’t been seen since. But in selecting Ersberg as his backup goalie at the start of the season, Murray complimented Ersberg’s ability to play well after long layoffs.

That’s a skill, Murray said, that not all goaltenders can pull off.

"We saw it from Ersberg last year," Murray said. "He did a real good job in that particular scenario a couple times, and that's what is going to be required tomorrow. Obviously it's been a while since he played.

"He has been working hard in the practices. He looks good. He's as good as you could possibly expect, after these many days off without playing a game. So I know it's a big requirement. It's going to be a hard test for him, but it is for every player that's going to play the game. It's a difficult building to play in."

Quick has started 29 of the Kings’ first 31 games, and looked sharp in Monday’s 2-1 victory over Calgary.

"He was outstanding last night," Murray said. "That's a big challenge, playing against the Calgary Flames and Kiprusoff at the other end, one of the premier goalies in the league."

Ryan Smyth, out of the lineup with an upper-body injury, has not yet been cleared for contact in practice, and Tuesday, both Murray and Smyth feigned surprise when it was suggested that Smyth took a couple light bumps in the corner.

"He has a different color sweater on," Murray said of Smyth’s red jersey, "to remind other players on the team that this is an unusual guy out here and please have caution with going near him. ... You can go hard to a player, and not finish hard. I think that's what our guys have been doing."

Smyth said he expects to be evaluated by a doctor again Saturday. The timetable for his return, revised last week, has Smyth out for a minimum of four weeks. Four weeks, the minimum, would put Smyth back in the lineup for next Monday’s game at Vancouver.

Smyth said he did not have a target date in mind for his return.

"No," Smyth said. "I've got to listen to what they (doctors and trainers) say. Obviously I want to be back right now, but it's a matter of letting nature take its course and listening to the trainers and the doctors.

"I want to make sure that once I'm recovered, I'm going to be healthy to carry on. As far as getting injured in a game, it could happen. It could happen on any part of my body. But you want to make sure that you're 100 percent going in."

As the Kings battled to hold a one-goal lead in the third period Monday against Calgary, it was notable that defenseman Randy Jones was nowhere to be found on the ice.

Jones has impressed, particularly in offensive areas, since being claimed off waivers from Philadelphia, but Jones drew the ire of Murray and was benched for the third period.

"He didn't deserve to (play)," said Murray, who then elaborated.

"I thought he was passing the puck with the greatest of ease, instead of just snapping the puck, tape to tape," Murray said. "I don't like to talk about what I say to players, necessarily, but I thought he was playing a `contain' game, rather than finishing and pinning and sealing."

It was suggested to Murray that he must have been quite upset in order to keep one of only six defensemen on the bench during the tight final 20 minutes.

"I thought, actually, that we maybe went a little too long with Jones last night," Murray said. "He got some ice time in the second period. Maybe we went a little too long. He's got to be better. I talked to him about that in my office.

"It's not unacceptable, if we're going to be a team that's going to play at a good level and be a better team. We can't, as coaches, get into the habit of accepting that kind of play. You have to lay it out there every night."
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