Kings, Ducks ready for Boxing Day game
The Kings and Ducks arrived at Staples Center on Sunday before workers were finished changing the surface after the Clippers’ victory over Phoenix, a game that started at noon. The Staples crew is accustomed to quick changeovers but this one was tight — and the quality of the ice, which stays beneath the court and can be iffy under the best of circumstances, is sure to be dubious.
The Kings will have a new/old look for their game against the Ducks. Jonathan Bernier got the start in goal, and Coach Terry Murray said the rookie would get at least one more start in the upcoming stretch of four games in five nights. He said he wasn’t sure which game Bernier will play, but he’s trying to make sure Jonathan Quick gets rest and that Bernier regains his confidence and can be a reliable backup.
Bernier won his last start, at Nashville on Dec. 18, one of only three wins in his eight starts. But Murray said he was encouraged by Bernier’s performance in that game.
“I saw a player who has more of an aggressive attitude, challenged shooters, looked very confident after being out of the lineup for an extended period of time but came back and showed the confidence to the team that he was ready. He was solid,” Murray said.
In addition, Marco Sturm will start the game on the top line, with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. Brad Richardson, who had been on the left side, moved to the fourth line with Trevor Lewis and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Sturm played there late in the Kings’ 3-2 victory over Edmonton on Thursday after being eased back into the lineup on the fourth line.
“I think it’s time to just get him going. He’s got a couple of games under his belt now,” Murray said. “I spoke with him this morning before the practice about getting back into hockey and skating and feeling good again and he said he felt much better in the third period, more instinctive in his game.”
The timing isn’t there yet. “I’m going to push him a little bit on this,” Murray said. “I don’t want to say, ‘OK, take your time to get into it.’ You’ve got to demand a little bit more and he has to put some pressure on himself to get going.
Finally, defenseman Matt Greene will play after suffering a concussion on Dec. 13 at Detroit. He will be paired with Rob Scuderi, leaving the Jack Johnson-Drew Doughty pairing intact and Davis Drewiske with Alec Martinez.
The Ducks haven’t played since Tuesday, when they finished a five-game trip with a flat 5-2 loss at Buffalo. Coach Randy Carlyle’s team has played more games than any other NHL team — 38 — but he said he doesn’t look at that number. The one he focuses on is how many games the team is above .500.
The team’s record is 18-16-4 but he considers the Ducks to be two games over .500 instead of two below, which technically is true because those four were losses in overtime or shootouts.
“Obviously we don’t feel good about being just two games over .500,” he said. “We’ve played a lot of hockey. I think the schedule handed us as tough a hand as I’ve seen since I’ve been here. But that’s not an excuse. Everybody has tough schedules. Everybody has tough stretches.
“For a short period of time I think we’ve been able to show that we can compete with the teams if we play that identity that we think we need. And at times we haven’t had the energy to do that, and that’s been a concern. That last game in Buffalo we had nothing left. And how do you go out and push and prod when you feel your guys have nothing left? You don’t, so you take the four days and enjoy the time with their families.
“They looked refreshed when we skated this morning. The execution wasn’t where you’d like it to be after four days off. You take one day off and it isn’t there. Hopefully the morning skate helped us in our preparation for tonight. We’re going against a very good hockey team here in L.A. They’re coming off a couple-day break and I’m sure they feel good about themselves.”
Also, the Ducks recalled left wing Matt Beleskey from Syracuse of the American Hockey League.
We’ll have more from Staples Center later, at www.latimes.com/sports
Photo: Kings goaltender Jonathan Bernier in action during a 6-1 win over the Predators on Dec. 18. Credit: Mark Humphrey / Associated Press