TAMPA BAY -
|"The sun came up," Veteran Ryan Smyth said on overcoming last night's loss. |
Kings general manager Dean Lombardi has been known to refer to assistant GM Ron Hextall as "Uncle Hex" when referencing Hextall’s ability to work with the Kings’ young players as something of a motivational counselor.
Saturday morning, Hextall sat down with one of his "nephews," Jonathan Quick, for a little chat in advance of the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Quick is scheduled to start in goal for the Kings, just one night after he gave up three goals in less than 35 minutes and got pulled in favor of Erik Ersberg. The Kings went on to receive a 7-0 beating from Atlanta, and the timing couldn’t have been worse for Quick.
In the previous game, against Carolina, coach Terry Murray started Ersberg over Quick, saying he had been displeased with some of the goals Quick had given up lately. Instead, Murray turned over Quick to goalie coach Bill Ranford, and goalie and coach spent two long practices working over some technical parts of the game.
Given something of a fresh start against Atlanta, Quick didn’t make it to the second intermission, which led to Saturday morning’s meeting with Hextall.
"He’s not on top of it right now," said Hextall, who played 608 NHL games in goal. "He’s doing things that are uncharacteristic of him, and he’s got to get back to basics and really get his focus back. There were a couple icing calls last night that obviously we weren’t happy about, because they were negated.
"In saying that, there are times through the year, as a goalie, as a defenseman and as a forward, when you’re going to go through rough times. Now, it’s obviously a hell of a lot more visible when you’re a goaltender than any other position. But he needs to get refocused."
Murray also used the words focus and concentration in regard to Quick’s game.
"When I see the third (Atlanta) goal going in, that is a pretty routine stop," Murray said. "I've seen that goal three or four times this year, that exact same goal. That is concentration, in my view. So that's what he has to get back to. He has to get focused."
"You have to get yourself ready emotionally and your concentration level up where it needs to be in order to be an important player in the game. And that applies to Quicker, but that pretty well covers everyone on our team, when I look at last night. That's a higher level of concentration and playing to win, and when you do that, and you're really zoned in, you do the right stuff."
The Kings’ worst shutout loss last season was a 5-0 loss to Buffalo on Dec. 19, 2008, a game that also has some relevance to the Kings’ current situation.
Jason LaBarbera started that game in goal and was replaced, in the third period, by Quick, who made his season debut after being called up after an injury to Ersberg. Quick allowed one goal and essentially became the Kings’ No. 1 goalie for the rest of the season. LaBarbera was traded to Vancouver less than two weeks later.
Murray announced Saturday morning that he would start Quick against the Lightning, and said he had at least one other lineup change in mind but hadn’t yet talked to the players involved. Sean O’Donnell and Teddy Purcell were Friday night’s scratches.
The Kings did not skate Saturday morning, but went to the arena for meetings and workouts. Players appeared to be in good spirits and a group of them, following tradition, found an empty space in which to kick around a soccer ball.
"The sun came up," veteran forward Ryan Smyth said. "It’s a nice day out here, and we’ve got to carry forth. We can’t dwell on it. We’ve got to look past it and look at the opportunity we have tonight.
"Obviously we have to erase what we were doing yesterday, and that goes for everybody, right from the goaltenders to the D to all the forwards. We know that, and we’ve got to respond. The best thing is, we play tonight, and we don’t dwell on the loss even longer. We can redeem ourselves here in Tampa."