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Kings Notebook (March 31)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
After a shutout on Tuesday at Nashville, Jonathan Bernier will start on Thursday vs. Vancouver.

Kings coach Terry Murray spent parts of eight seasons as an NHL defenseman, so he certainly knows something about anticipating offense.

Jonathan Bernier on HNIC Radio | Terry Murray | Comment

After Wednesday's practice, Murray anticipated reporters' questions before they were uttered, stepped into the proverbial passing lane and took control.

"Quick is our No. 1 goaltender,'' Murray said. "There's no gray area on that one.''

Of course, there's a reason Murray had to make that statement. He knew goaltender questions were inevitable, particularly after Murray made the decision to start rookie Jonathan Bernier in Wednesday night's game against Vancouver at STAPLES Center.

Bernier made 34 saves to record his first career shutout -- in his sixth NHL start -- in a 2-0 victory over Nashville on Tuesday, and the 21-year-old rookie will make his first appearance at STAPLES Center this season tomorrow night. (For you stat geeks out there, Bernier is the youngest King ever to record a shutout.)

Jonathan Quick, who has started 68 of the Kings' 76 games this season and already holds the franchise's single-season record for goalie wins (39), will be back in goal for Saturday's game against Anaheim, Murray said.

In explaining his thought process, Murray said it was more about Quick than Bernier, although he acknowledged that Bernier's shutout made his decision easier.

"This is the first opportunity that I've been able to back away from Quicker for a little while,'' Murray said. "His opportunity just to get some quality practice time in, for several days, is there because of Jonathan Bernier's performance in last night's game. He was solid, he had a shutout and I'm going to reward that performance with the game tomorrow against Vancouver.

"I want to take advantage of that solid performance and, again, give Quicker the opportunity to get specific in some drills and just go back at those looks for a few days in a row.''

Quick has played the second-most minutes -- to New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur -- among all NHL goalies this season, but Murray chaffed a bit at suggestions that he might be concerned about fatigue in Quick’s game.

"You guys bring it up. It's not me," Murray said to reporters. "He's not tired. He feels great. He's physically strong, he's mentally fresh. But as a player, if you just play and play and play, you've got to guard against that sometimes and give him the opportunity to practice. ... When you're playing every other day, with all the travel that's going on, it's near impossible for the goaltenders, especially, to give it that kind of a push."

For Bernier, it’s all a bonus. Bernier has been one of the top goalies in the American Hockey League this season, and was expected to lead the Manchester Monarchs into the playoffs, but for now, Bernier finds himself playing NHL games.

"I just go day by day," Bernier said. "I think the goalie that's going to go [start] is going to get the most shots in practice, to feel the puck, but it's good. But it's good. I've played with Quickie and we get along. He's a really good person and we get along pretty good, so it's good that way."

FINDING HIS WAY
Throughout this season, Murray has raved at times about Scott Parse’s potential and offensive ability. Consistency, however, has been a different issue in Murray’s mind.

Twice this season, Parse has been sent down to the AHL with instructions to play a more consistent game at both ends of the ice. Murray said he’s been pleased with the progress.

Of course, goals don’t hurt either. Parse followed up his two-goal game against Minnesota on Monday with a huge goal Tuesday, when he broke a scoreless tie in the third period with an even-strength goal against Nashville.

"His energy is really good," Murray said. "I think the pace of his game, shift after shift, has been consistent. That was a bit of a concern when he was here in the early part of the year, to follow through, and he has grabbed onto that very quickly now.

"I like the attitude away from the puck, his awareness, his responsibilities in the checking part of the game are getting better. Overall, playing the game at a higher pace, shift after shift, was a concern of mine early, and it seems to be evident that he's getting it, and it's there every game."

SHOT MENTALITY
Goals, and goals against, ultimately determine wins and losses, but while the Kings are just 1-3-1 in their last five games, Murray is increasingly happy with his team’s shot-on-goal totals.

In their last five games, the Kings have averaged 30.6 shots on goal. In their previous five games, the Kings had averaged 22.8 shots per game. Anze Kopitar had a team-high eight shots on goal Tuesday, one fewer than his season high.

"Our shot attitude really changed after the Olympic break," Murray said. "When you break the game down, the numbers confirm it. Shots attempted, shots blocked, shots on net, it dropped significantly. Just in the last few games now, we're starting to get that back. That's where our game is at. You have to put up around 65-70 shots, at the net, to be able to score some goals in this game today. It's starting to crawl back up into area."

KINGS SIGN FREE AGENT FORWARD

The Los Angeles Kings have signed free agent forward Ray Kaunisto to a two-year entry-level contract, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi announced today...more. In four seasons with the University of Northern Michigan, the 6-4, 185-pound native of Sault, Ste. Marie, Mich. registered 62 points (36-26=62) and 208 penalty minutes in 161 games.

LUC GETS MEDAL

Los Angeles Kings President, Business Operations Luc Robitaille received the Medal of Honour of the National Assembly Wednesday as part of a special presentation in Montreal.

Robitaille -- who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto this past November and was recently honored by the Los Angeles City Council in a special ceremony at City Hall -- was honored Wednesday, by various members of the National Assembly Office of Protocol....more and photos.

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