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Category: Jonathan Bernier

Kings will keep lineup the same, hope for different outcome on power play

Jake After considering a change that would have put Jake Muzzin in the lineup for Monday’s game at Ottawa and removed Peter Harrold, Kings Coach Terry Murray said Monday that he will keep the same lineup he used in the team’s 4-3 shootout victory at Boston on Saturday.

His reasons for considering the switch were related to reviving the power play, which is one for 20 over the last four games.

“Obviously, throw it around and talk about it quite a bit, but at the end of the day, we decided to go with what we have,” Murray said. “[The] power play to me can be simplified and you can have success. When things go off page on the power play you’re looking to make too many cute plays, too many fancy passes, seam passes, attacking from low too many times. You’ve got to simplify it, get it back up top and simply get the puck to the net from your blue line crew.

“I know we’ve talked about that often and that was the meeting again today. You’ve got to get it to the umbrella [formation] and create some screens, create some loose pucks. You start to shoot the puck, the penalty killers have to turn around, they have to face their own goaltender, they have to find pucks, and you have the same opportunity now to recover and get second and third opportunities. That’s where we have to get to.”

Defenseman Drew Doughty, who drew about half a dozen reporters to his locker -- he’s usually the focus of attention when the Kings visit Canada because of his standout play in Canada’s gold-medal triumph at the Vancouver Olympics -- promised that things will get going on the Kings’ power play very soon.

“They’re going to start getting going tonight, I think,” he said. “They’d better, not ‘I think.’ We worked on it there at the end of practice for a little bit, just moving the puck around, getting some shots on net and that’s one of our keys: We need to get more pucks to the net and recover loose pucks, get on those rebounds and put those in the empty cage.

“Tonight, that’s our No. 1 focus.”

Continue reading »

Final in Buffalo: Sabres 4, Kings 2

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The Kings hit the heights last week during a six-game winning streak. They’ve now hit their first skid of the season after a 4-2 loss to the Sabres on Friday at HSBC Arena stretched their losing streak to three.

Tim Connolly’s power-play rebound at 2:10 of the third period proved the difference in a game in which the Sabres planted big-bodied forwards in front of Kings goaltender Jonathan Bernier at every opportunity and rarely suffered the consequences. Jochen Hecht added an insurance goal for the Sabres at 15:21 after the Kings lost a faceoff in their own zone and Hecht was able to set up in the high slot.

Dustin Brown and Wayne Simmonds scored for the Kings (12-6-0), whose road record fell to 4-5.

The Kings have given up 15 goals in their last three games, an ominous sign for a team that prides itself on its strong defensive play. It’s not only that they miss burly defenseman Willie Mitchell, though that’s part of their problem without his physical presence and shutdown ability.

It’s that other defensemen are being asked to do more and not all are capable of responding. And his absence coincides with the increasingly ragged play of Matt Greene. He has been unreliable in his own end and unable to stay on the right side of the line that separates toughness and a lack of discipline.

The Kings haven’t won in Buffalo since Feb. 21, 2003 -- though that represents only four losses in the NHL's unbalanced schedule.

More later at www.latimes.com/sports

Helene Elliott, in Buffalo

Photo: Kings forward Ryan Smyth, left, tries to put the puck past Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller during the first period of the Kings' 4-2 loss Friday. Credit: Don Heupel / Associated Press

After two periods in Buffalo: Kings 2, Sabres 2

Kings1_350 The Sabres pulled even at 1-1 just 37 seconds into the second period. Defenseman Andrej Sekera somehow walked in from the blue line and got deep on the left side before sending the puck on net. With a crowd of players -- and goaltender Jonathan Bernier -- clustered by the near post, Patrick Kaleta deflected the puck inside the far post.

A turnover by the Sabres in their own zone, created by the tenacity of Peter Harrold, enabled the Kings to take a 2-1 lead.

Play was turning back toward center ice when Harrold forced the giveaway and fed a pass to Wayne Simmonds, who whipped a shot past Ryan Miller at 8:25. The goal was Simmonds’ first in eight games, an unusually silent stretch for the energetic winger.

Buffalo tied the score again, during a power play gained when Jack Johnson was serving an elbowing penalty.

Derek Roy was stationed at the left point but moved toward the middle of the ice before unleashing a blast on net. Thomas Vanek was parked in front of the net with his back to Bernier and deflected the puck, which changed directions too close to Bernier for the goalie to adjust. The goal was initially awarded to Roy, at 15:22, but it was eventually awarded to Vanek after the official scorer reviewed a tape of the goal.

Through two periods the Kings had a 27-14 edge in shots in a hard-hitting game.

More later at www.latimes.com/sports

Helene Elliott, in Buffalo

Photo: Kings center Kevin Westgarth takes Sabres center Paul Gaustad to the ice during a fight in the first period Friday night in Buffalo. Credit: Don Heupel / Associated Press

Bernier gets starts at Buffalo and Montreal; aptly named King moved to first line

Jon_240 Greetings from Buffalo, where it’s brisk but sunny and isn’t snowing…

Goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who gave up six goals on 34 shots in his last start, at San Jose on Monday, will face the Sabres on Friday at HSBC Arena as the Kings try to bounce back from their first back-to-back losses of the season.

Bernier said Coach Terry Murray told him shortly after the team landed in Buffalo on Thursday that he’d start the opener of this four-game trip. “It’s good. Any games I can play I’ll be happy,” he said.

Bernier got little defensive help at San Jose, but he also didn’t make the big stop teams need after they give up a goal. He said he has been able to banish the game from his mind.

“I feel confident,” he said. "It’s one of those games that you don’t get those bounces. You’ve just got to stick with it.”

He also said he doesn’t try to predict which games he will start and simply leaves it to Murray to decide. “I just go day by day. I think it’s not as frustrating if you go day by day,” he said. You just do your thing and when you get the call you’ve got to be ready for it.”

He said he hopes to face the Canadiens next Wednesday in his hometown of Montreal, a game for which he has been buying tickets for weeks.  “It’s going to be a good challenge for me. A lot of family is going to be in,” he said. “I heard it’s a loud building. I’ve been in that building but on the ice, I heard it’s a great building to play in so if I play I’ll be excited to play for sure.”

A few minutes later Murray said that he has scheduled Bernier to start that game. Jonathan Quick will start on Saturday in Boston and at Ottawa on Monday.

Starting in your hometown can be inspiring for a player or nerve-racking.  Murray said it’s a good chance for Bernier to deal with pressure.

“Good both ways. You’ve got to learn how to handle it,” Murray said. "That’s the nature of our game. There’s responsibility, there’s pressure, there’s big games and that’s part of the process of growing up and becoming a top pro, how you handle that stuff emotionally.”

Murray made one lineup change and one shuffle: he took rookie defenseman Jake Muzzin out of the lineup and replaced him with Peter Harrold, and moved Dwight King up to left wing on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, at least to start the game. Brad Richardson, who had that spot on Wednesday against Columbus, will move back to the third line with Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds.

Murray said Muzzin, who was -1 against Columbus, “had a tough game the other night… He’s a young guy that’s been playing at a very good level for us. It was just one of those games that it didn’t work out the way we have seen and this will give him time to step back.”

King, recalled from Manchester of the American Hockey League on Tuesday, made his NHL debut Wednesday against Columbus. He was scoreless, took two shots and was -1 defensively.

“I was obviously surprised when I walked in today and saw the lineup,” King said after the Kings' game-day skate in Buffalo. "It's good. It doesn’t change what I do. They’re obviously both really skilled guys so I go out there and work hard and hopefully create a little bit more space for them, so they can do what they’re so good at. Just kind of go with it and take my opportunity when I can.”

Murray said King is “a big guy who can get pucks stopped up and hold onto pucks down below the hash marks in the offensive zone. I felt the [Kopitar] line was in and out too often. We need to get more of that puck-stop, recovering pucks and get some kind of reward off the work you go through to get the puck down there.”

More players have auditioned for that spot on the left side than have auditioned for "American Idol." Ryan Smyth has played so well with Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams that Murray won’t move him away and to the top line, and that makes sense. But that sore spot seems more and more likely to be addressed via trade than from within, now that Scott Parse is scheduled to undergo hip surgery that could keep him out for three to four months.

But don’t believe the Jarome Iginla rumors. The Kings are not interested in taking him or his $7-million cap hit through 2012-13.

We’ll have more later at www.latimes.com/sports


-- Helene Elliott, in Buffalo

Photo: Jonathan Bernier. Credit:  Jason O. Watson / US Presswire.

Kings after 2: San Jose 3, Kings 2...and some strange moments

San Jose’s top line of Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau produced some pressure but no scoring chances — but the Sharks’ fourth line managed to break through for a 3-1 lead at 12:33 of the second period. Scott Nichol scored it after pivoting from his backhand to his forehand and taking a 20-foot shot.

Then came the craziness.

Ryan Smyth captured the puck as it bounced off the end boards and tucked it inside the post — but San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic reached behind the goal line and cleared the puck away so quickly that the referee never saw it. Smyth raised his arms in celebration but play continued and didn’t stop until Torrey Mitchell rifled a shot through Jonathan Bernier’s legs at 14:46.

The announced sellout crowd of 17,562 went wild, thinking the Sharks had taken a 4-1 lead. However, Smyth’s shot was reviewed and was ruled a goal  —which means the clock was turned back to the time of that goal, 13:35, and Mitchell’s apparent goal was wiped out. That left the Kings facing a 3-2 deficit and left the referees facing a lot of boos and derogatory chants.

The Kings got a power play a few minutes later, after Jamie McGinn was sent off for high-sticking Michal Handzus, but they managed only one shot and no real threat.

More later at www.latimes.com/sports

Helene Elliott in San Jose

Weight lifted for Doughty, Kopitar; Brown misses practice

Drew Doughty knew he would score a goal sometime. But after a Norris trophy-runner-up performance last season and heightened expectations for him and for the Kings this season, his inability to score was weighing on his mind.

That burden was lifted Saturday, when he scored the fifth goal in the Kings’ 5-1 victory over the New York Islanders. That extended their winning streak to six and set a club record by starting the season 8-0-0 at home.

“It was huge to finally get that goal,” Doughty said after a brief practice Sunday and before the team’s flight to San Jose for Monday’s game against the Sharks.

“I know I’m expected to put up some points and to finally be able to do that builds my confidence back up again, and hopefully they keep coming.”

Anze Kopitar scored twice, his first multi-goal game of the season, as the Kings improved to 12-3. Their 12 wins and 24 points through 15 games are the most in club history.

Kopitar, who led the Kings last season with 34 goals, acknowledged he was concerned about his low goal total but was consoled by his steady number of assists and the team’s success as a whole.

“It’s really the team effort and the team that’s doing well,” said Kopitar, who has six goals and 16 points. “That’s enough for me. We just want to keep the same thing going.”

Team captain Dustin Brown was permitted to miss Sunday’s practice for personal reasons but rejoined the team in time for the flight to San Jose. Brayden Schenn took Brown's spot in practice alongside Kopitar and Scott Parse.

"A little change," said Schenn, who has been scratched for the past four games. "I'm sure it was just a one-day thing but it was a change and a little excitement, I guess."

Schenn can play one more game before his pro contract kicks in, and the Kings seem content to continue to carry him as a spare forward for now.

Kings Coach Terry Murray said goaltender Jonathan Bernier will start on Monday and that Bernier and Jonathan Quick will see action as the schedule intensifies with a home game on Wednesday and a trip to Buffalo, Boston, Ottawa and Montreal.

More later at www.latimes.com/sports

Helene Elliott

 

Kings after deadline: Notes and quotes from Kings' 4-1 victory over Nashville

Kings3_600

Because there's some nice stuff here and because we know that Kings media relations whiz Jeremy Zager's grandma loves to see him get some publicity, we hereby present the quotes and factoids compiled by JZ and his crack staff:

Kings Coach Terry Murray

On the game: “We’re in a good position here with our start.  When you come out of the training camp that’s what you’ve worked so hard for, throughout the summer and throughout the training camp as we get ready to play games and to win games."

On poor starts to games last season:  “It’s been a big focus. It’s been something that was addressed the first day of the training camp when everyone arrived. You welcome everyone and hit on a few hot topics, and that was number one with the importance of it. I think that it proves out to be sort of the point, if you get off to a good start and get the first goal of the game and have a lead at the end of the first period, the percentages of games that you’re going to win is incredibly high.  Last year our percentage was .856 games that we won.  It’s a pretty amazing stat."

Forward Ryan Smyth, who became the 257th player to appear in 1,000 NHL games

On Saturday's game, which featured his teammates wearing mullet wigs in his honor during the warmups:  “It started off with a nice gesture with the boys bringing out their mullets, and it dated me a little bit, but it was awesome. The boys played well tonight. I thought [Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Scott Parse] started us off great.  They had some energy and gave us some life, and [we] just kept going.  Relentless.  [Jonathan] Bernier played strong.  It was great.  All around we had a lot of depth tonight and it was just nice to get the win.”

On playing in his 1,000th game: “It’s an honor.  It’s overwhelming.  I obviously still remember the first game, but it’s been 1,000 games.  You look back and there’s some great times, there’s some tough times, there’s sad times.  You go through so many different emotions throughout every hockey game, and obviously I can’t remember them all, but I’m just honored to play in the NHL.”

Continue reading »

Kings after one period: Kings 2, Nashville 0

The Predators are usually a scrappy, competitive team, but they put up surprisingly little resistance in the first period Saturday at Staples Center as the Kings took a 2-0 lead.

Anze Kopitar scored first, at 4:11, on a well-executed goal off the rush. Dustin Brown sent Kopitar in on the left side and he went wide on Cody Franson before letting loose a slap shot from about 35 feet out that sailed over Pekka Rinne’s left arm.

Brown made it 2-0 at the 13-minute mark. Scott Parse began the play in the Kings’ zone and made a cross-ice pass to Brown. Nashville defenseman Shane O’Brien was with him and Brown’s shot glanced off O’Brien’s stick before eluding Rinne.

Ryan Smyth almost joined the scoring parade at 15:05 with a point-blank chance but Rinne reached out with his glove and got his body in front of the puck to stop it.

The Kings had an 11-7 edge in shots in the period. Jonathan Bernier, making his fourth start, was rarely pressured.

More later at www.latimes.com/sports

--Helene Elliott


 

Fun, frivolity -- and a Kings game too

Ryansmyth_300 There was a great atmosphere at the Kings’ morning skate Saturday in El Segundo, with players wearing mullet wigs in honor of the formerly mulled Ryan Smyth, who will play his 1,000th NHL game Saturday night.

Smyth (pictured at left before Saturday night's game) was surprised by the gesture — and thoroughly confused for a moment when teammate

started calling everyone “Smitty.”

But he appreciated the gesture and the prospect of seeing 50 to 60 friends and relatives come to town for the game. The Kings and the NHL will honor him in a pregame ceremony next Thursday.

“It’s a special moment for me,” he said.

We’ll have more later on Smyth, who shows no signs of fading as he reaches his milestone.

There’s also a game to be played, and a fairly important game it is for the Kings, who are 5-0-0 at home this season but have been beaten by the Predators five straight times at home.

“They’re a fast team. They’ve always shown the puck tenacity. They’re on it quickly. They’re over top of you,” Coach Terry Murray said. “If you make one error with a  pass they’re going to hunt you down and make you pay the price, whether it’s a goal or a great scoring chance.

Continue reading »

Kings' Doughty ready to play, will try a mouthguard

Doughty_300 Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, cleared to play for the first time since suffering a concussion on Oct. 20, said he will force himself to wear a mouthguard as a precautionary measure against further injury to his brain. Some concussion experts believe that mouthguards reduce concussive forces and dissipate or absorb the energy of an upward blow to the jaw.

Doughty, 20, wasn't wearing a mouthguard when he collided with Carolina's Erik Cole. He has worn one in the past for dental reasons but became impatient with it. He said after Wednesday's practice at El Segundo that he had sustained some "little minor" concussions in the past that had kept him out of a game here or there but had never sat out six games, as he did this time.

"I'm not a fan of the mouthguard. I should be," he said. "The team is trying to get me to wear it so I think I'm going to start wearing one now. I got my teeth knocked out last year and now this, so I might try a mouthguard.

"I just wish I wasn't so stubborn. I had to wear one for a couple weeks last year and all I did was chew on it. I'm going to have to get used to it real quick here. Concussions are a bad thing. I'm going to need to figure that out."

Doughty, who was cleared by the team's medical personnel on Tuesday, said that after experiencing some symptoms last week—as expected—he has felt fine for several days and through several hard practices. Although he said he had very little contact Wednesday he did initiate some contact on Tuesday, even though he wasn't supposed to, but he had no ill effects.

"I've been feeling good for a little while now. It was just making perfectly sure I was ready to play," he said. "You don't want to mess around with stuff like that."

The Kings were 4-2 during his absence. "No question you miss your top defenseman," Coach Terry Murray said, "but the great thing about it is we came through it in pretty good shape. It shows a lot of character on the team. Guys stepped up and played very well in the games he was out.

"I thought Jack Johnson in particular took charge of the blue line and showed that he's a player that's going to be a pretty darned good player if we keep going with him here in the future. He did a lot of good things when Drew was out of the lineup on power play, on five-on-five, on both sides of the puck."

Doughty will be paired with Willie Mitchell, his previous partner. Jake Muzzin was assigned to Manchester of the American Hockey League.

Scott Parse, who pulled a groin muscle during training camp and has yet to play this season, is scheduled to be in Thursday's lineup against Tampa Bay at Staples Center. He will play the left side with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. "He needs to play now," Murray said. "We need to find out where he is at, how he's going to fit in, what kind of role he's going to perform. So get him into some competitive games and let's get a read on him."

Left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky, who missed Tuesday's practice because of the flu, practiced Wednesday and is expected to stay on the third line with Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds. Murray said he hadn't decided on a fourth line.

Jonathan Quick will start in goal, with Jonathan Bernier scheduled to start Saturday at home against Nashville.

More later at www.latimes.com/sports

--Helene Elliott

Photo: Drew Doughty. Credit: Harry How / Getty Images

Kings' Doughty out Saturday, new target is next Thursday.

Prized defenseman Drew Doughty, who has not played since suffering a concussion Oct. 20, was ruled out of the Kings' game against the New Jersey Devils Saturday at Staples Center because skipping it gives him more time to be sure of his fitness before the Kings' subsequent game, also at home, against Tampa Bay next Thursday.

The Kings had initially hoped the Norris trophy runnerup would be able to return tonight in Dallas against the Stars. However, General Manager Dean Lombardi said Doughty felt some concussion symptoms at least twice while skating in Los Angeles and his return was pushed back.

Coach Terry Murray said he, Lombardi and the coaching staff discussed a timetable for Doughty and determined that keeping the 20-year-old defenseman out of Saturday’s game would be their best course.

“Are we doing the right thing by just saying, 'Look, take one more game off?' " Murray said. "It gives us like five days of practice and just get through it and get ready for the following game.

"And I agree. We all agreed that that's the right thing to do."

Doughty was injured when he and Carolina's Erik Cole accidentally collided. No penalty was called on the play and no supplementary discipline was imposed because the contact was deemed incidental and not a deliberate hit.

Murray made one change on defense for the Kings’ game tonight, taking defenseman Peter Harrold out and replacing him with Jake Muzzin. Murray said his decision had nothing to do with the late third-period penalty Harrold took during the Kings' 3-1 loss to the Blackhawks at Chicago on Wednesday.

"We talk about it pretty often with the power play — we want to get shots from the blue line. We seem to be just passing up too many of those opportunities," Murray said. "Again, late in the game [Wednesday] night in that critical power play when it's a one-goal game, we were looking to pass it around too much.

"We feel that Muzzin's got a shot mentality. He's got a good shot and we're hoping that we can take advantage of it. Peter played well. It's just the change for that reason."

Murray also took out forwards Andrei Loktionov and Trevor Lewis and replaced them with enforcer Kevin Westgarth and rookie Brayden Schenn.

“We need Westgarth's role and Schenn, I think again, it's going to be a heavier game. There's going to be a lot more board play and  battles," Murray said. "He's been out a couple games watching. There's been a lot of video review with him. He's hungry to get back in and I want to see how he responds."

Murray also said that although he believes goaltender Jonathan Bernier should have held onto the puck on the play that led to Chicago’s second goal — a short rebound by Viktor Stalberg — he was otherwise pleased with Bernier's game. He said rebound control is one of Bernier's strengths and he simply wanted to see Bernier make a play or freeze the puck for a faceoff in that instance.

But Murray won't be burying Bernier like he buried Erik Ersberg last season.

"Actually I might go the other way and get him in sooner again," Murray said. "I thought his game was good. I'd just like to see him get his 'A' game on track and if we can get to that point we'll have two real good young goalies right on top of things and carry us a long way."

Murray added that Jonathan Quick will start on Saturday.

One last note: Dmitry Chesnokov of the Puckdaddy blog at Yahoo! Sports reported via Twitter that Ersberg had signed a one-year deal with Salavat Yulaev of Russia’s KHL.

More later at www.latimes.com/sports

--Helene Elliott, in Dallas

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