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by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
The Kings skated today for an hour on the heels of a 5-2 victory on Saturday afternoon and prior to starting a stretch of four games in six days tomorrow, playing host to the Toronto Maple Leafs. There were two noticeable absences on the ice as Denis Gauthier did not skate due to a foot injury and Brian Boyle also did not skate as he is being assigned to Manchester. More below…

Jason LaBarbera, who stopped 22-of-23 in the Kings victory up in Edmonton on Wednesday – his first start since Nov. 1 - is slated to start tomorrow vs. Toronto.

“[We are] playing LaBarbera tomorrow,” head coach Terry Murray confirmed. “We have four games in six days and it is important we have two goalies that are capable of playing and to keep playing. I really liked the way LaBarbera played in Edmonton, he had a big win for us. It was important to bounce back and do the right step as a team and get the win under our belt.

”He is ready to play, he is hungry and he wants to get back in there.”

The 2-1 win in Edmonton came on the heels of a 6-2 loss at Calgary, in one of the Kings worst games of the season. Erik Ersberg had started that game, but was yanked in the second period after surrendering the fourth goal of the game. LaBarbera came on in relief, stopping 15-of-17.

“It was a blessing in disguise coming in in Calgary. I hadn’t played really in a while and it was good to get some action and really helped me the following night in Edmonton,” LaBarbera said.

Ersberg is expected to play at Phoenix on Tuesday. Ersberg has played the Coyotes twice in his career, posting a 2-0-0 mark stopping 73-of-78 shots (.935 SV%), a 2.40 GAA and one shutout.

“It is good to split the two games,” Ersberg said of the back-to-back Monday and Tuesday.

Ersberg also noted that it was good to have a quality start on Saturday vs. Chicago, stopping 22-of-24 in the Kings 5-2 win.

“Yesterday was a big win for us and a good game for me,” he said. “The last couple of games I had not been too happy with [my play], so it was good to play a good game.”

Murray is comfortable with both netminders and will continue to pick his starting goaltender based on match ups and schedule.

“Toronto has some really big forwards that go to the net real hard, Barbs is a big man that can match up in that battle in front of the net,” Murray said of his starter tomorrow.

“If I had a No. 1 guy that could play 83 games, I would do that. You take a look around the league, there are only three or four those guys in the league that can do that. In our situation, I am going to keep going with two goaltenders. I am confident in both guys.”


One notable absence at practice was that of 6-7 forward Brian Boyle, the reason being, he was assigned to Manchester, the Kings AHL affiliate.

“I need a lot more from him,” Murray said. “He needs to go play and find the kind of game that is going to be there day in and day out at the National Hockey League Level. He had some good games, but we need him to be more consistent in his performance. We had a couple of conversations in the last few games, we watched video and critiqued it. We spoke again this morning.

“In my mind, he has a good idea and understanding of where I am with him and what he needs to give a big push to in his game when he is playing in Manchester.”

Boyle, 23, has played in 14 games with the Kings this season, recording one point (1-0=1) and 12 penalty minutes. Last season, he recorded five points (4-1=5) and four penalty minutes in eight games with the Kings.

“[At Manchester], he is going to be a player that plays in all situations and put his points up on the board. I wanted to keep his focus on the things that I am talking about with him and reminding him of that. It is very important that you keep this in mind, that this is what I need to see the next time he is with us.”

With Manchester last season, Boyle recorded 62 points (31-31=62) and 87 penalty minutes in 70 regular season games. Boyle’s 31 goals last season led Manchester and all AHL rookies, as did his 16 power play goals and his six game-winning goals.

He was originally selected by the Kings in the first round (26th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

With the Kings clinging to a 3-2 lead on Saturday vs. Chicago and the Blackhawks on a power play, Kings defenseman Denis Gauthier blocked a slap shot by Brent Seabrook. He would take just one more shift the rest of the game and did not participate in practice today.

“I don’t want to overstate it, but it was a game-changing shot block,” Gauthier’s defensive partner Tom Preissing said. “It was on a penalty kill in the third period. He went down on a knee to block a shot which he needed to block and he knew it was probably going to hurt and it did.”

Gauthier is scheduled to have an MRI tomorrow to reveal the extent of the injury but Murray listed him as doubtful for tomorrow.

“He has quite a bit of swelling,” Murray said. "I doubt [that he will be able to play], we will get some information from the doctor tomorrow and know more then.”

Peter Harrold is expected to start in his place.

Injured defenseman Jack Johnson has started practicing with the team, wearing a bright yellow “no contact” jersey at practice. It was his third practice in four days (his first was Thanksgiving).

“During practice it felt pretty good, I have to wait until my left shoulder is as strong as my right shoulder,” Johnson told reporters following practice.

Johnson is participating in drills but is not allowed to have any contact while the shoulder heels.

“There are times when I think that guy would maybe rub me out, you know, just to see,” Johnson said. “Curiosity more than anything. I know it will be a while before I am hitting and getting hit. It is a part of the whole healing process.

“I have to know I am 100 percent in order to play well.”

John Zeiler’s three-game suspension for his hit on Adam Foote is over, but Zeiler is not expected to return to the Kings lineup on Monday…Patrick O’Sullivan leads the Kings with a +10 rating, and has six points in the last five games (4-2=6) and is a plus-6 during that span … Kyle Quincey has assists in four of the last five games (5a) …Derek Armstrong’s goal on Saturday was his first goal in 30 games…Michal Handzus has 12 points in 22 games this season. It took him 45 games to get 12 points last season…Frolov has goals in three of his last four games.
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