EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- One of the compelling camp stories here at Kings camp is just who will win the backup job to starting goalie Jonathan Quick, a job that coach Terry Murray says is up for grabs between incumbent Erik Ersberg and challenger Jonathan Bernier.
Unless I'm completely misreading the tea leaves here, my money is overwhelmingly on the 22-year-old Bernier, a former first-round draft pick.
Nothing against Ersberg, the 28-year-old Swede who has done a solid job as Quick's backup, but Bernier is a rising star, one who led the AHL last season with a .936 save percentage and a second-best 2.03 goals-against average. Gaudy numbers, indeed.
"Bernier was outstanding in the AHL all year long and probably the best player in the game down there," Murray said Monday. "He's ready to make the step. This is a competitive opportunity for him."
But Murray is clear in saying it's an open battle between Bernier and Ersberg.
"I feel more than ready this year," Bernier told ESPN.com on Monday. "I just have to keep the same approach as I've been doing at all my camps, just focusing on myself and not worrying about the end result."
This season, the backup job will be a little more fulfilling than last season, when Quick played in 72 games. Murray wants to limit Quick a bit more in 2010-11.
"I would like to see the backup get a game a week, if at all possible," said Murray.
All of which makes me believe even more that Bernier will win the job. The Kings wouldn't want to waste him on the bench this season, so announcing ahead of time that Quick will play a bit less suggests to me they are getting ready to elevate Bernier.
It won't be an easy decision for the Kings. Ersberg, on a one-way deal paying him $750,000, would need to clear waivers to go down to the AHL, while Bernier is on a two-way deal that doesn't require him to clear waivers. Even if Ersberg clears waivers to go down to the AHL, he would be essentially buried there for the rest of the season because the Kings likely wouldn't want to expose him to re-entry waivers, where, if claimed by another NHL team, the Kings would be on the hook for half his salary.
That's where the system needs tweaking in my mind -- at least for goalies. The Kings shouldn't be penalized for having three NHL goalies they really like. Still, it's a nice problem to have when you consider the lack of goalie depth when Lombardi took over as GM.
"If this is a problem, it's a welcome problem," Lombardi said. "We'll just let it play out. The only thing that's safe to say is that I don't think we have to play Jonathan Quick 75 games. I don't think that's going to happen."
Ersberg, meanwhile, left the ice midway through a camp session Monday. Turns out he bruised his catching hand the day before.
"He's just feeling some pain, he's got a bruise and hopefully there's nothing else wrong," said Murray. "Hopefully he'll get back on the ice tomorrow."
Murray has these forward lines and defense pairings pretty much locked in until further notice:
The 26-year-old Parse gets the best shot of his NHL career, starting camp as a top-six forward.
"He was in and out of the lineup last year," said Murray. "He showed me a lot. I like some of the highlight-reel goals that he scored. He's a very high-skilled player and I think he needs that opportunity to be successful to fail. It's there. The line's got great potential. I hope he comes out on the right side, that he's successful."
A familiar face was on the ice Monday in assistant coach John Stevens. The former Flyers coach joined Murray's staff this summer after spending years working together in Philadelphia. In fact, Stevens also worked with Kings GM Dean Lombardi and assistant GM Ron Hextall in Philly, so he was a natural fit to follow them to L.A.
"Terry and I are good friends," Stevens told ESPN.com. "We believe in a lot of the same things when we coach. Dean and Hex were two other guys I was real familiar with, so I just felt it was a good opportunity to get back in, and with a team that's made great strides over the last couple of years."
Buzz in L.A.
From the Kings' PR staff and certainly noteworthy:
The Kings have already renewed 97 percent of their season seats from last season and are projecting a record-season seat base in Kings/Staples Center history and record ticket-sales numbers for the club in their 44th season.