Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier is 6-1 against Nashville, with one shutout… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
The Kings’ morning skate on Monday was optional, and many players took the option to work out off the ice instead of on it. But two lineup changes were apparent for Monday night’s game at Staples Center against the Nashville Predators: Jonathan Bernier will start in goal in place of Jonathan Quick, and defenseman Alec Martinez will return to the lineup after missing eight games.
Bernier owns the Predators and has faced them seven times, more than he has faced any other NHL opponent. He’s 6-1 against them with one shutout and a 2.00 goals-against average.
“We were joking with him this morning and I said I think he’s played Nashville more than [Anze Kopitar] and I have,” Martinez said.
Martinez suffered an upper-body injury on Feb. 11 and was activated before the Kings faced Vancouver on Saturday but didn’t play there. Davis Drewiske will sit out against Nashville.
“I feel good,” Martinez said Monday morning. “It’s pretty much right on schedule. It’s been a long couple weeks being out but I got better every day.”
Martinez, who had a goal, two points, and an even plus-minus rating while averaging 18 minutes and 55 seconds' ice time in the 11 games he played, is the first of the Kings’ three injured defensemen to return. Matt Greene (back surgery) and Willie Mitchell (slow recovery from knee surgery) remain out indefinitely.
Martinez said he had been kept off the ice after the injury for only four or five days. “I’ve been skating for two weeks. It was basically just me and a stopwatch for a while when the guys are on the road, so that wasn’t very much fun,” he said. “My conditioning feels really good. My legs feel good.”
He called the Kings’ matchup against the Predators “a bounce-back game” after Saturday’s 5-2 loss at Vancouver. “Nashville’s a really good hockey club. They don’t give up much,” Martinez said. “They’re pretty defensive, kind of like we are. It will be a good test for us.”
Coach Darryl Sutter said he had pushed Martinez the last few days “to give him a little more game-situation stuff,” and that Martinez’s conditioning level was good. He said Martinez will be paired with Keaton Ellerby.
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