Reporting from Nashville — The Kings' defense corps lost much of its size and brawn Friday when Matt Greene returned to Los Angeles for evaluation of an apparent head injury and Willie Mitchell was ruled out on a week-to-week basis because of a lower-body injury he suffered Thursday at St. Louis.
General Manager Dean Lombardi said via e-mail he had not called up replacements because of issues related to the holiday roster freeze and the possibility Marco Sturm soon will be activated. From midnight local time Sunday through midnight local time Dec. 27, teams won't be permitted to waive, trade or loan players. There are some exceptions, such as emergency recalls.
The defense pairs at Friday's practice were Rob Scuderi-Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson-Peter Harrold and Alec Martinez-Davis Drewiske.
Greene was hit hard Monday by Detroit's Niklas Kronwall but practiced Wednesday. He felt ill Thursday and didn't play against the Blues. Mitchell left the St. Louis game in the second period and saw a doctor Friday in Nashville. It's believed he hurt his knee, but the NHL doesn't require teams to disclose information about injuries. He will remain with the team for now.
Bernier gets a rare start
Jonathan Bernier, who recorded his only career shutout at Nashville last March and earned one of his two victories this season over the Predators on Nov. 6, will start against them Saturday. That will give Jonathan Quick a break after eight straight starts and could boost the confidence of Bernier, who has a 3.30 goals-against average and .889 save percentage.
He knows he can't become paralyzed by the fear one mistake might bury him.
"That's the hard part. That's something that I've got to learn," he said. "Usually when you play a lot you know you're going to be right back in, so even if you have a bad game you can show off your character, what you're capable of. For me I have to play the same way I've been practicing and I should be fine. I can't really put any more pressure on and think, 'If I don't play good I won't play anymore.'
"There's a lot of games coming up and for me it's a good opportunity for me to get back in and maybe get a few more after that."
Kyle Clifford, who replaced Alexei Ponikarovsky on the third line Thursday with Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds, will keep that spot Saturday. Coach Terry Murray said Clifford earned it and added, "I wasn't real pleased with what was going on with the other player on that left side, to be quite honest."
Murray has accelerated his timetable for Sturm's debut and might get him into a game during this trip, likely with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. Justin Williams would rejoin Ryan Smyth and Jarret Stoll on the second line. "Anytime he tells me he's ready to get going, I'll put him into the lineup and start him off. Even if it comes down to playing fewer minutes, that's okay," Murray said.