Flu sidelines Kings' Quick
"It's been going through our group," Kings Coach Terry Murray said of the flu. "It's not just our team. It seems to be going through the population right now."
Erik Ersberg, who hasn't played since stopping 34 shots in a 2-1 loss to San Jose on Jan. 11, will start in Quick's place.
"I guess I'd prefer to have a good game the last game than a bad game," said Ersberg, who found out he was starting Thursday morning. "But it was a while ago. So [I'll] just out there and play. Just have fun."
Murray characterized Quick's illness as a 24-hour bug and said his goalie was feeling much better Thursday. Quick, who is 14-4-0 with a 2.45 goals-against average in his last 18 games, also complained of illness Wednesday and was taken off the ice midway through that morning's workout.
Forward Rich Clune will make his NHL debut Thursday night following a cross-country odyssey that featured a disabled cellphone and his recall from a city he was never in.
Clune, who nearly made the Kings' roster out of training camp before being slowed by a groin injury, had just been assigned to Ontario of the ECHL when the Kings tried to reach him and ask him to fly to Los Angeles. Trouble was, Clune was still with Manchester (N.H.), his former club in the AHL. And his cellphone wasn't working. So a quick-thinking manager called his roomates, who told Clune to get to the airport.
"I wasn't told really anthing," Clune said. "I was told to come to the rink this morning."
Once there, the 22-year-old was informed he'd be playing his first NHL game Thursday night.
"[It's] that dream that every kid has. Getting to the highest level possible, playing in the NHL," said Clune, who is taking the roster spot vacated by Brandon Segal, who was claimed off waivers by the Dallas Stars earlier in the day. "It's pretty cliche but there's nothing more true than that. I'm just trying not to think at all. Just play."
Clune played in 41 games for Manchester this season, scoring just three goals. But he had a team-leading 119 penalty minutes, so his role with the Kings is pretty clear. He'll be paired on the team's fourth line with Raitis Ivanans and Oscar Moller.
"I don't want to say too much," Clune apologized to reporters. "Just come in, put on the jersey and blend in with the team. Basically that's all I can do at this point."
Several of the Kings Olympic players practiced Thursday with the equipment they'll use later this month in Vancouver, trying to break in new gloves and pads -- although, as U.S. defenseman Jack Johnson noted, "gloves come pretty broken in."
Johnson will be perhaps the only NHL player to march with his country in Friday night's opening ceremonies in Vancouver, after the Kings gave him to permission to miss that morning's practice. Johnson will fly to British Columbia, take part in the festivities, then fly back for Saturday's game with Colorado, the Kings' last contest before the Olympic break.
"I can't wait," he said. "It will be the first time I'm meeting most of these people. I'm really looking forward to the whole Olympic experience."
Quick, who will also be playing for Team USA, was not able to soften his goalie pads up Thursday after leaving practice early with the flu. But his equipment was in good hands when goaltending coach Bill Ranford, a two-time Stanley Cup champion and a Conn Smyth winner, strapped them on and played between the pipes through most of the workout.
-- Kevin Baxter
Photo: Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, right, celebrates with defenseman Drew Doughty following the team's victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. Credit: Chris Carlson / Associated Press