This isn’t exactly the ideal situation for Jonathan Bernier to be starting in goal. His last appearance in a game was 24 days ago, and tonight he will be playing in front of a Kings defense that is without two of its most veteran players, Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell. Those two have combined for 931 career NHL games. The six defensemen playing for the KIngs tonight have a combined total of 1,072 NHL games. Experience doesn’t count for everything, but the Kings certainly will need to pick up some slack, and Terry Murray said today that it’s not just limited to the defensemen…
MURRAY: “The key is going to be the forwards, in my mind. Everybody needs to be working hard and doing the right thing, that we have good gaps, good spacing. The pressure coming back is going to be important. When pucks are chipped in deep, we have to make sure that we have five together on the breakouts. If you get a little bit lazy coming back, the availability obviously breaks down. The passing lanes are not there, and that’s when there’s too much pressure coming at those young defensemen now. So it’s the importance of the tracker, of everybody working, coming back to home plate, stopping, a good checking attitude and a lot of communication. There needs to be a lot of talk, because of the sweeping pressure that Nashville throws at you. They have their legs moving constantly. It’s not a hard, physical forecheck. You have a couple guys, Tootoo is going to finish hard, but more it’s speed and sweeping, and now you’ve got to show some composure to deal with the kind of speed that they’re going to show.”
As for Bernier, well, it’s sink or swim time. He hasn’t been in a game since his Nov. 24 hometown letdown, when he and the Kings lost 4-1 at Montreal.
MURRAY: “I know he hasn’t played in a while, but you just say, `It’s your game. Go play.’ He’s got a lot of talent. We saw his game last year, in the American Hockey League, to be one of the best down there. He just needs to bring that same kind of focus, that same kind of game, here. It’s an adjustment, there’s no question. Everything is faster, harder, and he’s working his way through it. He’s going to be a good goalie.”