MARTIN JONES is back in Manchester in a big way, but for how long?
If you ask Monarchs head coach Mark Morris, not long at all. Jones made 31 saves to lead Manchester to a 4-1 win over Bridgeport Friday night. The Monarchs were in Albany Saturday night and play in Providence today at 3 p.m.
Jones is 10-2-2 in the AHL this season and was named to the all-star game. In the NHL, Jones made a major splash in his first action with the Los Angeles Kings, going 8-3-0 and winning his first eight starts with three shutouts.
Morris indicated that rookie J.F. Berube, who started a franchise-record 24 consecutive games, was to start in Albany Saturday with Jones back in the net today. Morris was asked about the rotation going forward, but the coach said he thinks the net will belong to Berube exclusively sooner rather than later.
"I don't know how long Martin Jones is going to be here," Morris said. "It's probably going to be (Berube's starting) role at some point. I can't imagine that the Kings are going to let Martin Jones stay here too long."
But what are the Kings to do? Jonathan Quick is the clear top guy and backup Ben Scrivens played very well before Jones made his mark. Do the Kings trade Scrivens, who clearly has some value?
Sending Scrivens to Manchester is not an option since he would be subject to waiver claims and a team would surely be happy to snag him, leaving the Kings with nothing to show for it.
So if Scrivens were traded and Jones goes back to L.A. as the backup, is that the best option for Jones' development? Quick plays a ton of games and after missing nearly two months with an injury, he's as fresh as ever. At least in Manchester, Jones gets to play almost every game. But perhaps Jones has made such an impression that he would press Quick for playing time.
The Kings have a major decision to make and Jones' return to Manchester did nothing to diminish Jones' value. There was no AHL letdown for Jones, who looked calm and fluid in beating the Sound Tigers and made several big saves, including back-to-back stops on the same breakaway from Anders Lee."I thought he played really well," Morris said. "He looked like the same old guy we knew when he left and the guy that we saw on TV. He's a pretty solid goaltender."
HAPPY ALL-STARS: Joining Jones in St. John's, Newfoundland, for the AHL All-Star Classic festivities from Feb. 11-12 will be forward Linden Vey.
"They're deserving," Morris said. "They've been impact players for us in the first half and being selected by the other coaches says volumes about their respect for their games and I'm happy for those guys to have the opportunity to showcase their talents with some of the other great players in this league."
Jones could be back in Los Angeles by the time the Classic rolls around, but said he was looking forward to playing in the game, which has a different format this season with one AHL team playing Farjestad BK, one of the Swedish Hockey League's top clubs.
"It's a great honor. It's going to be a fun experience getting to play the team from Sweden," Jones said. "I'm going to try and enjoy it and have fun with it."
With just one team this season, having the Monarchs send two players is especially significant since 14 of the AHL's 30 teams are not sending any players.
"If you look at how we've been doing this year, we've been struggling of late but we had such a good first half, it just shows that we have a lot of good players on this team and the development has been good. We want to go there and have a good showing," Vey said. "Jonesy and I are both looking forward to going there and representing the Monarchs."
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.