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Elliott: ‘No one else can be Jonathan Quick.’ Joonas Korpisalo brings his own style to Kings

When the Kings acquired Joonas Korpisalo from Columbus on March 1, they gave the red-bearded Finnish goaltender a warm welcome and an unenviable task: succeeding Jonathan Quick, who had been the backbone of two Stanley Cup championships. of the franchise and still had the undying gratitude of the fans. that’s why despite the obvious slip in his game.

Korpisalo, who was traded to the Kings with defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov for Quick and first- and third-round picks, has responded with calm and confidence. Playing behind a defense bolstered by Gavrikov’s size and intelligence, Korpisalo is bringing stability to an area the Kings had to improve to have any hope of making a long playoff run. He has stopped 78 of 84 shots to win his first three starts with his new team, a surefire way to make new friends.

He doesn’t want anyone to forget Quick. That’s not going to happen.

It’s not Quick Lite either. He doesn’t have to be.

“I’m just trying to be me, you know? No one else can be Jonathan Quick. He is a living legend here. So no one can replace that guy. Nobody,” Korpisalo said after the team practiced Wednesday in El Segundo. “I’m just trying to be myself and not replace anyone, just bring myself here and do the things I do best.”

Quick, who was traded by Columbus to Las Vegas, has made a tremendous turnaround with the Golden Knights, going 4-0 with a 2.22 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in his first four starts. He wasn’t anywhere near that level with the Kings, compiling a 3.50 goals-against average and .876 save percentage in 31 appearances this season. That wasn’t going to be good enough.

Pheonix Copley kept the Kings afloat while Quick struggled and Cal Petersen faded, but he has no NHL playoff experience. Korpisalo has played in nine postseason games, all with the Blue Jackets in 2019-20, and has a goals-against-average of 1.90 and a save percentage of .941. That will likely be enough to designate Korpisalo the playoff starter.

So far, though, Korpisalo has alternated starts with Copley, and it will be Copley’s turn Thursday when the Kings take on Columbus in the third game of a seven-game home stay. Coach Todd McLellan said the coaching staff discussed breaking that pattern to pit Korpisalo against his former team, but decided to leave a good thing alone. It would have been a good line of argument: Gavrikov joked that he was looking forward to facing “pretty much everyone,” but continuing the team’s recent strong run was top of McLellan’s mind.

“I don’t think it’s going to change. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing,” McLellan said. “There’s no point or need to get really sentimental.

“I know it’s Korpi’s former team. But Copley is going to play. It’s the rotation we’ve been doing. We don’t need to change anything. And that’s what we’re going with. We’re in a good place right now. We want to stay in a good place.”

Korpisalo, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season, made a smooth transition to Los Angeles other than getting stuck in traffic Tuesday on what turned into an hour-long drive from the South Bay to Crypto. .com Sand. “It’s something else,” he said. “In Columbus he lived on the other side of the track, so he walked there every day. … It’s very different. But you get used to it pretty quickly.”

His adjustments on the ice have gone well. “The guys are doing a great job letting me see the record all the time. That helps my game a lot,” she said.

Defender Drew Doughty, left, and goalie Joonas Korpisalo have had plenty to smile about since Korpisalo was traded to the Kings on March 1.

(Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Adjustments go both ways. After so many years of hearing Quick’s voice and knowing his preferences in different situations, it’s understandable that defender Drew Doughty finds it strange to hear and see someone else in goal.

“I’m so used to knowing exactly what Quickie wanted me to do and I know what he was going to do,” Doughty said. “So it’s definitely an adjustment, but I think the adjustment has gone very well. Korpisalo is a very good goalkeeper. Good Guy. We have a lot of confidence in our two goalkeepers at the moment. Both are playing well. It will be interesting to see if one of them takes over or what will happen. I don’t know.

“It’s different not being here with Quickie, but as sad and disappointing as it was, we have to move on. That’s just the bottom line.”

Defenseman Sean Walker said that he had formed a relationship with Quick and had an idea of ​​how Quick would play the puck. He is now developing it with Korpisalo.

“He plays calmly and he also reassures us a lot. It will do those big stops, it will freeze the drive when necessary. It’s been great so far. His numbers show it,” Walker said. “It’s been great having him around.”

Korpisalo spoke fondly of Columbus, who selected him in the third round in 2012. He expected to feel “a little weird” seeing his former teammates, even if he doesn’t have to face them.

“Eight years at a club, that’s a long time. I was lucky to spend so many years in a club. I don’t think a lot of guys continue to do that in this league,” he said. “Good memories. Ups and downs. Everyone always supported the team there. It’s just a great place and great memories for me and great people.”

It’s not the second Jonathan Quick, it’s the first Joonas Korpisalo. The Kings bet that it will be enough. They cannot afford to be wrong.