WHAT to do with all these good goaltenders? It's a problem most NHL organizations would love to have. It's one the Los Angeles Kings have had before and they have it again. And once again, it will directly impact the AHL affiliate in Manchester.
Kings starter Jonthan Quick has been out since mid-November with a groin strain and is expected to be back in action in a few weeks. When Quick first went down, veteran Ben Scrivens saw all the net action and played well.
Manchester's top netminder, Martin Jones, was called up when Quick went down, but did not see the net for a few weeks. Since then, it's been hard to get him out of it. Jones has gone 5-0-2, posted consecutive shutouts and has a goals-against average of 0.99 and .967 save percentage.
"There's very few teams in the NHL that have three guys," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "When you have a wealth of NHL-caliber goalies, it's something everyone would love to have. It's a good situation for the organization to know they've got those three guys in the fold that are NHL-ready."
The Kings are no stranger to this scenario. Most recently it was Jonathan Bernier who was stuck as an NHL-ready goalie who was seeing little ice time behind Quick. The move then was to trade Bernier to Toronto.
Scrivens' numbers are good, too. He's 7-3-7 with a 1.66 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. Quick's numbers before the injury were not up to his usual standards. Quick is 10-5-1 with a 2.35 goals-against just a .905 save percentage.
So what happens now? "My guess is as good as anybody else's at this stage," Morris said. "I was following the Kings and when Scrivens was having success I was wondering if Jones was going to get an opportunity. Then when he did and played so well, I'm sure it created a situation where they are going to have to make some decisions. Jones has proven he can play there. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out."
The most obvious scenario is also the most likely. Quick will get the top spot back when he is healthy, that much is certain. Scrivens is also likely to remain in place since he would be exposed to waivers if he were sent to Manchester. And Jones, who is safe from the waiver wire due to his two-way contract, would come back to Manchester and be the No. 1 guy again, thus playing a lot and continuing to build on his NHL success.
There is also a chance that Quick would get a rehab start or two in Manchester, though Morris said he doubts that will happen.
"That would be great but I don't foresee that happening. I don't know if they would risk that," Morris said. "They know best and Quickie is obviously a guy that's familiar with Manchester. I think it's unlikely that it would happen."
Meanwhile, the Kings can also look to the future and J.F. Berube, who has played very well in Manchester in Jones' absence. The 22-year-old Berube is 10-4-2 with a 2.40 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.
"J.F. has stepped up for us and filled in during Jones' absence. He's done a good job for us and he's a big reason why we're in the situation we're in now," Morris said. "Jonesy got the ball rolling and J.F. has picked it up and run with it himself. We're pleased that J.F. is finding success and giving us an opportunity to win every night."
Too many good goalies. It's a nice problem to have.
Big weekend: Facing mounting injuries, the Manchester Monarchs put together three wins in three days against tough odds this past weekend. The team won at Worcester, traveled to Adirondack for a win, fought through the snowstorm to get home early Sunday morning and then defeated Bridgeport to complete the weekend sweep on the strength of a Tanner Pearson hat trick.
"It was a big weekend," Morris said. "Anytime you go through precarious parts of the season and your backs are against the wall and you face the odds and you're able to succeed, it helps your guys gain confidence and build that fabric of your team where you know you can trust and rely on guys to fill in and get the job done."
Manchester remains in first place in the Atlantic Division at 19-5-5. The Monarchs host rival Portland Friday night at 7 at Verizon Wireless Arena and then travel to face Bridgeport Saturday night before the four-day holiday break.
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.