Kings hope sit-down leads to Quick turnaround

November, 13, 2009

I heard some faint rumblings this week that the Los Angeles Kings weren't terribly satisfied with Jonathan Quick's past few games, and when I saw Erik Ersberg get the start Wednesday night at Carolina, well, my spider senses tingled.

Turns out, my spider senses were wrong.

"No, there's no goalie thing going on," Kings head coach Terry Murray told "Quick is my No. 1 goaltender. He had played 12 in a row and 16 of 17. I saw a couple of areas in his game in his last start in Chicago that just needed some practice time. I'm going to start him against Atlanta [on Friday]."

Quick's .898 save percentage entering Friday night's game had him down to 36th among NHL goalies. As Murray put it, given the West Coast travel and the schedule the Kings have, quality practice time is hard to come by. So he decided to sit Quick on Wednesday and give him a few days of specific practice time with goalie coach Bill Ranford.

"A lot of it is just getting a rest physically and mentally getting a break," Murray said. "Twelve starts in a row is pretty demanding for a young guy who doesn't have a lot of experience in the game at the NHL level. Maybe a bad habit creeps into your game when you get away from quality practice time. Bill Ranford does a real good job with him, staying very specific with some drills so that he's focused on one or two different parts of this game.

"That's what he needed to get back to," Murray said. "Quite honestly, he just needed that kind of attention, and he got it Wednesday and Thursday in practice. He's ready to get back in net."

The "reset" approach worked earlier this season with winger Alexander Frolov. Murray scratched the Russian winger for an Oct. 19 game, and was quite honest and public at the time about his reasons why. Frolov has responded with 10 points (3-7) in 10 games with a plus-2 rating since getting back in the lineup. I felt it was really noticeable Wednesday night in a 5-2 win at Carolina, a game in which Frolov picked up two assists.

"I agree," Murray said. "That was one of the best games he's played for us all year long. He was outstanding. He's a big, heavy guy and strong on the puck. He made some excellent plays in the offensive zone and was very responsible without the puck on the checking side of the game. I've loved his attitude since he's come back into it; everything that I would want from him as a player."

Murray understands the pressure that's on the 27-year-old Frolov. He's an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

"This is a big year for him, it's his contract year," Murray said. "It's huge for him. I want him to be a very successful player this year. But bringing skill alone in today's game is not good enough, and that's what he was bringing in the early part of the year -- just playing with his skill. With a player like Frolov, it's got to be more of an emotional part of the game, there has to be a bigger dig-in from that side of it. And hard work. That was the message I was talking to him about. And that it's all about the team. He's responded."

Speaking of responding, Murray can't say enough about Anze Kopitar. The No. 1 center leads the NHL in scoring with 30 points (14-16) in 19 games, an evolution that Murray believes began before this season.

"You know what, it goes back to last year for me -- the checking part of the game is what we talked about from the first day of training camp in order for this team to move forward," Murray said. "And that's: Play without the puck, know the system, know the structure, know your responsibility. And Kopi bought in 100 percent on that side of it, and I think he sacrificed some offense last year because of that. But now he knows how to play 200 feet without the puck. It's all coming together for him.

"Give some credit to Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams -- the line is clicking, it has good chemistry. And Kopi right now is on a bit of a roll."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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