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Nerves Abound as Cuts Loom

by Andrew Howard / Los Angeles Kings
Will Jonathan Bernier be the Kings No. 2 netminder?

With less than two days before the Kings must finalize their 23-man Opening Day roster, there are some nervous moments for players fighting for the last remaining roster spots, with roster cuts expected today.

After the Kings lost 5-4 to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday at the Honda Center in the pre-season finale, coach Terry Murray said that he expects the roster, which currently stands at 27 players, to be finalized by Tuesday's practice at 10 a.m.

That leaves a few spots open and a lot of tough decisions to make.

"I've been very impressed right from the start of training camp with the way the young players came in with their work ethic," Murray said. "The way that they worked throughout the summer, it clearly showed that they're improved on the physical side of things, strength, endurance."

Here's a look at some of the players battling for a spot on the roster when the Kings open the 2009-10 season at STAPLES Center against the Phoenix Coyotes on Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m.

FORWARDS
Rich Clune: This presents an interesting situation for the Kings. Clune suffered a pulled groin in Saturday night's 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche at Frozen Fury XII in Las Vegas and will be out for a couple of weeks, according to Murray.

Clune could be placed on IR to begin the season and therefore secure a roster spot that way, Murray said that's a decision for General Manager Dean Lombardi to make.

Clune played in five games in the pre-season and did not tally a point but was third on the team with 22 PIMs in his agitating game. Clune could be the first "middle weight" on the Kings roster since Tom Kostopolous' departure in 2007.

Trevor Lewis: Murray praised Lewis' performance Sunday night at Anaheim, calling it a tremendous performance.

"He's got speed, used him at all three forward positions tonight, he's killing penalties for us, and he's been that way throughout the training camp," Murray said. "It's great to see a young guy like that come through the process of getting better. Last year at this time he had a long way to go and he's made great progress."

One thing Murray pointed to was the versatility Lewis brings as he played all three forward positions throughout the training camp.

Murray also noted how Lewis has matured physically, and stated that his knowledge of the game has improved tremendously.

"He's improved 100 percent since last year at training camp," Murray said.

Lewis played in six games in the pre-season, scoring one goal and notching one assist.

Brayden Schenn: The Kings first round pick (5th overall) of this year's NHL Entry Draft has had a great performance in the Kings 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Sept. 19. In that game, Schenn scored his lone two goals of the pre-season.

Schenn is only 18 years old, and could find himself on the outside looking in as another year of juniors could really help his development.

Kevin Westgarth: Westgarth serves as one of the Kings bruisers but he may not secure a spot on the opening day roster with Raitis Ivanans already holding down that role.

In four pre-season games, Westgarth failed to tally a point but finished second on the Kings this preseason in PIMs with 33.

DEFENSEMEN
Alec Martinez: Murray was also complimentary of Martinez following the Kings 5-4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in the pre-season finale.

"He's a young guy with some experience in the game at the pro level," Murray said. "He sees the ice, moves the puck, he works hard at the one-on-one game. I think he's played well throughout the training camp".

Murray added that Martinez could be a back-end player to give the team depth as the Kings seventh defenseman and filling in for the suspended Sean O'Donnell for the first two games of the season.

Thomas Hickey: The Kings first round pick (4th overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft had a solid training camp. He was one of the lone players that shined in the Kings 6-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes in the first game of the Rookie Tournament.

In five games in the pre-season, Hickey tallied two assists and had a +/- of -1, but having only played in seven pro games, a year at Manchester could help Hickey fine tune his skills for the pro game.

GOALTENDER
Erik Ersberg vs. Jonathan Bernier: While Murray said he is clearly set with Jonathan Quick as his No. 1 goaltender, the issue of who No. 2 will be is a little bit more complicated.

"Quick is clearly to me the number one goaltender," Murray said. "He played well throughout the camp, he earned the right to come into training camp as the No. 1 guy, and now the decision is to be made on No. 2."

In three pre-season games, Ersberg was 0-2-0 with a 3.26 goals against average, totaling 55 saves at an 87.3 percent clip.

Last season, Ersberg played in 28 games, starting in 25 of them, with a record of 8-11-5 and a 2.64 goals against average.

When asked if Ersberg had shown enough to be the No. 2 goaltender, Murray said he had.

"That's a decision that we have to make," Murray said. "Obviously Bernier and he have played well in the training camp and their exhibition games so we just have a hard decision to make."

Bernier played in three games this pre-season with a record of 2-1-0 and a 2.82 goals against average.

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