|Jonathan Bernier will get the start in goal tomorrow night against his favorite childhood team and in the pressure cooker of the Bell Centre.
Will it be a happy homecoming for Jonathan Bernier
Bernier will start in goal for the Kings tomorrow against the Montreal Canadiens, Bernier's favorite childhood team. Bernier grew up in Laval, less than a half-hour drive outside of downtown Montreal, and expects to have approximately 70 friends in family in attendance.
``I'm not paying for all the tickets,'' Bernier said with a laugh.
More than any position, in any sport, the goaltender position is bonded to the province of Quebec. The lineage of talented French-Canadian goalies runs from Jacques Plante to Bernie Parent to Rogie Vachon to current-day standouts such as Martin Broduer and Roberto Luongo.
As a young goalie in Quebec, Bernier dreamed of playing for the Canadiens. He will be in purple and silver tomorrow, not red and blue, but the chance to play his first professional game in his hometown left Bernier smiling and surrounded by local media after Tuesday's practice.
``Obviously, I've been watching the Montreal Canadiens for a long time,''
Bernier said. ``When I was really young, I was hoping to play (for them). When you're young, you try to see yourself out there. I was hoping to get drafted by Montreal when I was young, but now it's going to be a great feeling.''
Showing wisdom beyond his 22 years, Bernier immediately pointed out that he didn't want to make himself the focus of the game, or do anything different than he would for any other start.
That's because symbolically, if nothing else, this is a huge game for the Kings.
They have dropped four of their last five and need a win tomorrow to salvage a
2-2 record on their road trip.
Bernier has lost four of his six starts this season and has been adequate, but might need to be far better than adequate tomorrow. The Canadiens have been strong on defense and in goal and have the NHL's top penalty-kill unit, so the Kings might be headed for a tight, low-scoring game.
``Obviously we're not playing as well as we want right now, and we've got to find a way to turn things around,'' Bernier said, ``and I think it's going to be a great challenge tomorrow for us. They're a great team. I think both of us are great teams. We just have to stick to our game plan and play the way that we're capable of playing.''
The pressure of playing in one's hometown, especially a hockey-mad hometown such as Montreal, might cause a coach to veer in other direction, but coach Terry Murray didn't back down. In fact, he specifically scheduled this game for Bernier because of the excitement and pressure involved.
Bernier is known for his calm demeanor, on and off the ice, and Murray's thinking is that Bernier will be able to keep the night in perspective and thrive under the pressure.
``I've always felt that a player coming back home, there's always adrenaline,''
Murray said. ``The family is here. There is a lot of emotion in it, and because of who he is, I believe he's going to respond the right way.''MARTINEZ FOR MUZZIN
The Kings made a roster move Tuesday, calling up defenseman Alec Martinez
from Manchester of the AHL and sending down defenseman Jake Muzzin
Muzzin had one assist in 11 games with the Kings but had been a healthy scratch from the past three games after Murray was dissatisfied with his effort in the Nov. 17 game against Columbus.
Martinez, 23, had been leading the Monarchs in assists (11) and points (16) through 20 games. Martinez played four games with the Kings last season, and the
2007 fourth-round pick is known for his mobility and ability to shoot. Murray said he hadn't decided whether Martinez would play Wednesday.
``Martinez has been playing real well down there,'' Murray said. ``He's their leading point-getter, and Muzzin, we felt, needed to go play and keep working on his game. I'll spend today thinking about, and talking about, what I'm going to do for a lineup tomorrow night on the back end.''
It's highly possible that Martinez will get to play against Montreal, given that he had four power-play goals for the Monarchs this season and that the Kings'
power play has been struggling.
``Our power play, we need to get it going,'' Murray said. ``When we get to back-to-back power plays, or power plays that are coming very quickly, it's very demanding for Jack (Johnson) and Drew (Doughty). So to come back with another player who is good on the back end, who can really shoot the puck, is what we need. I know Martinez, one thing he can do is take the puck to the net real hard. He's got a great shot.''
Martinez arrived in Montreal, from Manchester, just before Tuesday's 12:30 p.m.
practice. He arrived a little later than scheduled, Martinez said, because his driver took an unintentional detour along the way.
``I got a good view of Montreal,'' Martinez joked. ``I've never been here before.''
Martinez will be looking to give the Kings the same type of offensive support he gave the Monarchs. Only three of the Kings' 61 goals this season have been scored by defensemen.
``The season has been going well so far,'' Martinez said. ``I was fortunate enough to get a few points down there. I think we did a good job. Pretty much every goal I scored was because the forwards had a good net presence. It's tough for a goalie to stop the puck if he can't see it.
``Really, I owe it to the forwards, including Dwight King
, who is here already.
I actually joked about it before he got called up, that I needed to take him out to lunch, because he was pretty much the reason I scored those goals.''LET IT GO
A day later, a major topic of discussion remained Ryan Smyth's disallowed goal with three seconds remaining in the third period of Monday night's loss to Ottawa.
On-ice official Eric Furlatt immediately disallowed the goal, citing Smyth's high stick at the point of contact with the puck, and NHL officials said they could find no video review that definitively showed Smyth's stick below the crossbar, which is the standard for a ``good'' goal.
After practice Tuesday, Murray was asked whether he felt the need to give his players a ``let it go'' message, regarding the non-goal, a day after their 3-2 loss to the Senators.
``I addressed it right after the game last night, in the locker room,'' Murray said. ``My message was, the game should never have gotten to three seconds on the clock and a review for a goal. It should never have got here. That's a game we should have put away before that. You have a lead, and you've got to be able to protect that. We had a lot of great opportunities.
``We should have capitalized on it. In other situations where we got off-page and were turning pucks over in the neutral zone, that's something we have to get away from doing, and be more consistent in finding what works and staying with that program.''