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Quick returning to Kings' nets

by Josh Brewster
LOS ANGELES -- Despite two performances that snapped his club out of a late-season funk, Los Angeles Kings' rookie netminder Jonathan Bernier is headed back to the minors -- for now.

A compelling chapter ended -- for now -- as foretold by Kings coach Terry Murray, who said that despite Bernier's second-consecutive victory and third in three starts, mainstay Jonathan Quick will do the heavy lifting as the Kings enter an important home-and-home series against Pacific Division-rival Anaheim Ducks.

"There's no controversy," Murray said.  "Quick will play Saturday and I'm looking at Quick through the next game, also .(.both vs. Anaheim). He's our No. 1 goalie, that's very clear. He's a big part of why the L.A. Kings are where they are right now. Quicker's our guy."

Any doubts were put to rest on Friday when the Kings sent Bernier back to Manchester, their AHL farm team. That came one day after he was named to the AHL's First All-Star Team -- and was the winning goalie in the Kings' 8-3 victory over Vancouver.

Murra is well aware of why the question of a goaltending controversy has arisen in recent days.  Bernier was recalled on an emergency basis Monday after regular backup Erik Ersberg was shelved with an upper-body injury.

"I understand it," Murray said after Bernier beat Roberto Luongo, stopping 27 of 30 shots en route to the blowout win over the Canucks Thursday night.

"We've got a young guy that's been playing in the American Hockey League," Murray said of Bernier. "(He's on the AHL's) first all-star team, he's one of the best goalies down there. He's a first-round pick of the Kings, he's a great prospect and he's starting to take advantage of some opportunities to play and show that he's a blue-chipper. That word (blue-chipper) is going to come up a lot more often in the future.”

Speculation about a potential goaltending controversy heated up after Bernier became the youngest goaltender in Kings' history to record a shutout, blanking the Nashville Predators Tuesday 2-0 in a big Western Conference game. 

Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that the shutout came after Quick had lost three-straight starts as the Kings went winless in four games.

But the Kings stand ready to appear in the postseason for the first time since 2002, and Quick has won a franchise-record 39 games this season, a fact not easily forgotten despite Bernier's tremendous work.

Bernier's career started with a bang in an unlikely locale when he backstopped the Kings to an opening day victory over the Anaheim Ducks at England's O2 Arena in September, 2007. After losing his next three outings, Bernier was returned to his junior club, Lewiston (QMJHL), then appearing in Team Canada's net at the World Junior Championships, and also making his AHL debut in Manchester. 

The following season, 2008-09, Bernier appeared in 54 AHL games, winning 23 and recording a .910 save percentage and 2.40 goals-against average. This season, he's one of the AHL's best, with 29 wins in 56 games, a 2.07 GAA and .936 save percentage.

"I'd say last year was a tough one," Bernier said about his first full minor pro season. "I was impatient a little bit.  I said (to myself), this year, go down there (to the AHL) and try to dominate.  When you get your chance, you'll be ready."

The 21-year-old Bernier, a native of Laval, Quebec, was drafted No. 11 in 2006. 

Can the Kings carry three netminders?

"That's something that I have to talk to management about," Murray said.  "Ersberg has been cleared (to play). He got checked, postgame, with our team doctor. (Bernier's) on an emergency recall. You have to make the decision that he goes back down or you put him on the recall. I'll let management deal with that."

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