Friday, March 4, 2011
Kings: A Quick decision on the goalkeeper
By Dan Arritt
Kings (36-24-4, 76 points) vs. Vancouver Canucks (40-16-9, 89) at Staples Center, 1 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Quick is the pick – Kings coach Terry Murray has decided to hand the keys back to goalkeeper Jonathan Quick and hope he can lock down the Western Conference leaders. Jonathan Bernier shut out the Coyotes on 25 shots Thursday night, and has been stellar over his last eight starts, but Quick has shown a tendency to bounce back from poor performances with some of his best efforts of the season. After allowing nine goals on the last 27 shots he faced, it’s a huge game for Quick’s confidence and the Kings, who are in fifth place in the West but still teetering just two points out of 10th. Both could use a lift, in a big way.
2. The Mitchell Report – Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell earned the tough-man award against the Coyotes. He was drilled under the left eye by the puck during the first period, opening a cut that required 54 stitches. Wearing a protective visor and looking a bit like Rocky Balboa in the 11th round, Mitchell returned to play two shifts in the second period and a key role in killing a penalty late in the game. He was back at practice Friday morning, which is great news for the Kings. They are 25-11-3 with him in the lineup this season and 11-13-1 without.
3. Get that membership card ready – Against the Coyotes, second-line center Jarret Stoll scored his second goal in the last three games, pulling him within two of joining the not-so-exclusive 20-goal club. Five other Kings have reached that mark this season (Dustin Penner with Edmonton) but none have netted more than 21. The Kings haven’t had six 20-goal scorers on the same team since the 1992-93 season, which was the last time they reached the Stanley Cup Finals (and Wayne Gretzky wasn't even in that group).
4. Ch ch ch ch changes – These teams haven’t met since Oct. 15, a 4-1 victory by the Kings at Staples Center. Of course, the Kings have upgraded in key areas since then, most recently adding Penner to the top-line left wing hole. They've also worked rookie defenseman Alec Martinez into the back end since the last meeting. Penner has been relatively quiet against the Canucks in his career, scoring five goals in 29 games. He didn’t get an official assist on the only goal Thursday night against Phoenix but did use his big body to prevent goalkeeper Ilya Bryzgalov from seeing the puck as it whizzed off Stoll’s stick with just under eight minutes left.
5. Anything but streaky – The Canucks and Red Wings seem to be coasting to the finish line, while about 10 teams below them in the West are scratching and crawling to get past each other. Vancouver hasn’t won two games in a row since Feb 4 and 7, but hasn’t lost two in a row since Jan. 20 and 22. The Canucks are coming off a 3-0 loss Thursday night against visiting Nashville, which means they’ll probably be clicking on all cylinders as they start a five-game road trip against Western Conference playoff contenders.