QuickBernier

Kings’ Sutter: Quick, Bernier ‘competing’ to see who plays next

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One of the biggest developments in LA’s recent surge — the Kings have won five straight and seven of eight — is who’s been between the pipes.

After a sluggish start to the campaign, Jonathan Quick has been platooning with Jonathan Beriner and, according to head coach Darryl Sutter, is now in a full-on battle for playing time.

“They’re competing against east other to see who plays the next game,” Sutter told the media Friday, prior to departing for Vancouver. “It’s not necessarily that they’re hot. They’re playing well enough to win the next game.”

Quick, the reigning Conn Smythe winner, received the lion’s share of work to start the season and was the goalie of record in nine of the first 10 games.

But after a 3-2 loss in Detroit on Feb. 10 that dropped LA to 3-5-2 on the year, Sutter shook things up.

Bernier got the call for the next two games and played well, recording a 4-1 win over St. Louis and a 2-1 win over Columbus.

That kickstarted a goaltending rotation — since the Blue Jackets win, the Kings have gone: Quick, Quick, Bernier, Quick, Quick, Bernier.

Bernier is a perfect 4-0-0 while Quick is 3-1-0 over the last eight games, and it’s the former that could be holding the advantage moving forward.

On Wednesday, Bernier stopped 32 of 33 shots in a 2-1 win over Detroit and was named the game’s first star. Afterward, Sutter was full of praise for his 24-year-old ‘tender.

“I don’t think we had much in the tank, to be honest,” he explained. “The goaltender was the difference in the game.”

This development is pretty interesting given Quick signed a monster 10-year, $58 million extension with LA in the summer.

While nobody’s suggesting there’s a Roberto Luongo-Cory Schneider-type situation at play, it’s clear Bernier is talented enough to be a No. 1 netminder.

Which begs the question — is it time for the Kings to trade Bernier?

Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

Read more about his rise here.

Video: Kuznetsov sets table for Vrana’s first NHL goal

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27:  Jakub Vrana of the Washington Capitals poses for a portrait during the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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In his fifth NHL game, intriguing Washington Capitals prospect Jakub Vrana scored his first NHL goal (and point).

Let’s be honest, though; Evgeny Kuznetsov deserves plenty of the credit, as he sent a fantastic pass for Vrana’s tap-in tally.

See it for yourself:

Even if that was mostly Kuznetsov, Vrana has been getting his chances so far.

He generated four shots on goal in two separate occasions so far in his four games of NHL action, so maybe he was due for a chance like this.

Considering he’s just 20 years old, the Capitals could get used to Kuznetsov to Vrana.

Update: The Capitals won 4-1, and Vrana’s first goal wasn’t the only noteworthy “first.” After piling on shots, John Carlson finally scored his first goal of the season:

Kulikov returns to increasingly healthy Sabres lineup

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.

The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?

He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.

Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.

With Foligno out sick, Columbus gives Bjorkstrand another shot

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 13:  Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets lines up for a face-off during the game against the Boston Bruins on October 13, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.

The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.

He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.

With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.

Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?

Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old: