Greene rejoins Kings' lineup; Ersberg released [Updated]
The real news for the Kings is that defenseman Matt Greene will play Saturday night for the first time since he underwent shoulder surgery in late July, and that rookie defenseman Jake Muzzin will sit out the game against the Colorado Avalanche -- but let’s get the Erik Ersberg situation out of the way first.
[Updated, 1:27 p.m.: After activating Greene from the non-roster list, the Kings assigned Jake Muzzin to Manchester of the American Hockey League.]
The Kings terminated the contract of the Swedish goaltender after he cleared waivers Saturday morning. He had been assigned to Manchester of the American Hockey League on Oct. 5 and played two games for the Monarchs but told Kings executives last week he was leaving, presumably to play in Russia’s KHL.
Ron Hextall, the Kings’ assistant general manager and GM of the Monarchs, didn’t want to comment on the record. But the gist of what happened is that Ersberg, who bruised his hand during training camp and lost any minuscule chance to beat out Jonathan Bernier for the backup job, thought he could and should be playing. He was offered big bucks to play in the KHL and is likely to land there.
Fearing that Ersberg would leave them shorthanded in Manchester, the Kings promoted Martin Jones from Ontario of the ECHL to the Monarchs to share the goaltending duties with Jeff Zatkoff. Since the Kings terminated Ersberg’s contract, they don’t have to pay him. He was to earn $750,000 in the final season of a two-year deal.
Ersberg fell into Coach Terry Murray’s doghouse last season and never escaped for reasons that remain unclear. He wasn’t all-star caliber but the Kings have thrown far lesser goalies than him in the net. He was supposed to compete with Bernier during training camp for the No. 2 job behind Jonathan Quick, but Bernier would have had to be truly awful and Ersberg beyond superb for that to have happened. Ersberg’s hand injury made the point moot.
Back to the future ….
Greene’s return follows the timetable that was projected after the extensive work done on his left shoulder and it comes at an opportune time for the Kings. They’re still without Drew Doughty, who’s recovering from a concussion, and Greene should bring physicality and some veteran poise.
“It feels good. It feels good to be back around the guys,” he said after the team’s morning skate at the Pepsi Center. “They did a good job. The doctors cleared me, so everything’s healed. It’s just a matter of playing a game now. No excuses.”
Murray said Muzzin had done a good job on the second power-play unit, but with Greene in the lineup the Kings now have six veteran defensemen. He said he wanted to keep Peter Harrold in the lineup because Harrold is “pretty effective with the puck” and has a shot mentality that could help on the power play. Muzzin averaged 13 minutes, 45 seconds’ playing time and had one assist and a plus/minus rating of zero.
Greene will play with Willie Mitchell. Harrold will be paired with Davis Drewiske and the pair of Rob Scuderi and Jack Johnson will remain intact.
We’ll have more later from the Kings’ game against the Avalanche. Colorado, by the way, will be without defenseman Adam Foote, who is recovering from a concussion.
-- Helene Elliott in Denver
Photo: Matt Greene. Credit: Los Angeles Times