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Kings head into playoffs with stellar goalie tandem


AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rarely does a team go into the Stanley Cup playoffs with a pair of goaltenders who weren’t on the opening night roster.

It’s where the Los Angeles Kings find themselves as they prepare to face the Edmonton Oilers in the opening round for the second straight season.

As unsettling as that sounds, Joonas Korpisalo and Pheonix Copley have been solid over the past six weeks.

Copley has been the team’s top goalie since early December, when he was called up due to the early-season struggles of Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen. And Korpisalo is 7-3-1 since being acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 28.

The Kings also have the second-lowest goals-against average in the league since March 1 at 2.20.

“To see both of them enter our team and have permanent stays for different reasons has been pretty rewarding,” coach Todd McLellan said, “It has been an extremely odd year to start the year with two goalies that we thought we were going to run with until this time of the year and end up with two different ones. It doesn’t happen often, and if it does, it’s usually due to injury.”

Whoever gets the start, it will mark the first time since 2002 that it won’t be Quick, who was in net for 92 consecutive postseason games and led the franchise to both of their Stanley Cup titles in 2012 and 2014.

Quick was traded to Columbus for Korpisalo, defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov and a pair of draft picks. Quick was then subsequently dealt to Vegas.

McLellan hasn’t said who will be his primary goalie, but it is likely to be Korpisalo. The 28-year old from Finland had two shutouts for the Blue Jackets during the 2020 playoffs and was 3-5 with a 1.90 GAA. He holds the NHL record for saves in a playoff game with 85 in a 3-2 five overtime loss to Tampa Bay during the first game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Korpisalo was also with the Blue Jackets in 2019 as a backup when they upset the Lightning in the first round and faced Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Korpisalo’s quick adjustment to Los Angeles also helped ease tensions in a locker room that wasn’t happy with how Quick was traded. The move happened during a Kings’ game in Winnipeg and general manger Rob Blake was unable to tell Quick or team leaders until after word started to circulate.

“Korpisalo and Gavrikov coming together I think was a benefit to those two. They supported each other and the team opened up their arms after an emotional day or two and welcomed them quickly,” McLellan said.

Korpisalo said it has been easy for him to settle in with the Kings. He is 2-1 this season against the Oilers, but both wins came with Columbus.

“I just try to go out there and play with instinct,” he said. “But meantime, you have to know who the dangerous guys are as well as the handedness of every guy. It’s all part of the scene.”

Copley went 24-6-3 in 36 games. His wins since his debut are tied for sixth in the league but his .903 save percentage was 28th. He has 68 NHL games under his belt, but none in the playoffs. And Copley split his two meetings against the Oilers this season.

Copley said he is not trying to get caught up in all the hoopla of his breakthrough season — nor is he worrying about who will get the start.

“I’m just enjoying it. It’s a good group to be a part of,” he said. “I’ve just tried to do my best to help this team on a daily basis. And then, you know, when I’m in the games just play my game.”

Both goalies are likely to see time during the series as the Kings try to advance beyond on the first round for the first time since their last Stanley Cup title in 2014.


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