Previewing the Los Angeles Kings' 2013-14 season:
Game 67 vs. Toronto
March 13, 2014
7:30pm PST (10:30pm EST)
After sweeping their Western Canadian road swing, the Los Angeles Kings are back home with all of the momentum in their favour. 7-0 since returning from Sochi and winners of eight-straight overall, the Kings look to match their franchise-record winning streak on Thursday when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs.
While this matchup is important for both clubs, it does have some individual storylines. For starters, the Kings welcome back their former netminder in Jonathan Bernier who makes his return to Staples Center for the first time since being traded last June. While he did face his former team back on December 11, this will be the first time fans in Los Angeles get to see No. 45 in an opposing uniform.
While he did lose his decision to the Kings three months ago, Bernier has been a rock for the Leafs this season. En route to going 25-16-7 this season, Bernier wasted little time letting fans in Toronto wonder who the team’s number-one netminder was, with all due respect to James Reimer.
Speaking of the night of December 11, the Kings won thanks in large part not to Jonathan Quick but Martin Jones in between the pipes. In what was just his fourth-career NHL start, Jones entered the Air Canada Centre not only with three-straight wins but a shutout streak of 157:46. While shutout was snapped courtesy of a power play goal by Toronto defenseman Cody Franson, Jones was brilliant anyway making 39 saves en route to a 3-1 Los Angeles and his third-consecutive First Star of the Game honour. But as great as Martn Jones was that evening, it is most likely that the Kings will go with Jonathan Quick. After all, unlike three months earlier, No. 32 is healthy.
With a win on Thursday, Jonathan Quick would tie Rogie Vachon’s franchise mark of wins by a goaltender with 171. While the netminder would be the first to admit that individual records pale in comparison to what the team accomplishes, such a feat would only further underline the enormous impact Jonathan Quick has had on the Los Angeles Kings and their loyal fans.
Speaking of milestones, head coach Darryl Sutter is tied in career coaching wins with the man he took over from in December 2011. Sutter matched Terry Murray’s mark of 499 wins and can hit 500 with a win on Thursday, which also tie him with the late, great Toe Blake for 17th on the all-time list.
As for the game itself, the Kings need to focus on a Leafs team who, despite losing in San Jose on Tuesday, are still a respectable 5-3-2 in their last 10. Jake Gardiner is coming off a two-goal night while the Leafs have reliability should Jonathan Bernier not be able to play on Thursday as the aforementioned James Reimer made 42 saves in San Jose despite losing.
In spite of their impressive 22-11-1 on home ice, the Leafs are just 13-13-7 away from the ACC this season. At 19-10-3 on home ice, the Kings hold the advantage. Of course, nothing can be determined without dropping the puck. When it does drop on Thursday, the Leafs better find a way to contain the suddenly-resurgent group of Brown, Richards, Williams, Martinez and even Trevor Lewis who now has two goals in his last two games.
Can the silver-and-black spoil Jonathan Bernier’s homecoming and continue their winning ways, or with the former King have the last laugh? We’ll see.
Enjoy the game!