Pheonix Copley was barely on the radar when the Los Angeles Kings opened training camp in early fall, but the 30-year-old goalie has helped patch up one of their glaring holes this season.
Copley is expected to start his third straight game when the Kings host the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.
Copley was recalled from AHL affiliate Ontario on Dec. 1 after the Kings ran out of patience with Cal Petersen and demoted him.
Copley won his first two starts while alternating games with 36-year-old Jonathan Quick.
He had a rougher time in a 6-0 loss at the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday but was given a chance to redeem himself in the finale of the six-game road trip on Thursday against the Boston Bruins.
Copley stopped 33 of 35 shots in regulation and overtime, then five of seven in the shootout to help Los Angeles to a 3-2 win.
“All the minutes he’s played have been pretty solid,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “He’s giving us a sense of confidence right now.”
Copley played his first NHL game on Feb. 27, 2016, as a member of the St. Louis Blues. Before this month, the only other season in which he started more than one game was in 2018-19 with the Washington Capitals.
Copley said he’s keeping things simple with his latest opportunity.
“I’m just trying to make the saves, not overthink it and trust myself,” he said. “Whatever is going to happen, happens.”
San Jose will be trying to win three in a row to match its season high.
James Reimer will start in goal for the Sharks, who haven’t played since a 3-2 win against the visiting Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night.
Reimer was unavailable for seven games because he sustained an undisclosed injury against the Kings on Nov. 25, but he returned on Tuesday and made 20 saves in the win against Arizona.
Reimer is 5-4-1 in 11 career appearances against the Kings with a .934 save percentage and a 2.19 goals-against average, better than his career marks of .913 and 2.81.
The Sharks might be getting a few other key players back from injury this weekend as well.
San Jose defenseman Mario Ferraro also sustained a lower-body injury against the Kings last month when he blocked a shot. He’s missed the past three weeks, but he practiced on Thursday and is expected to return on either Saturday or Sunday against the visiting Calgary Flames.
Ferraro is second on the team in ice time at 22:49 per game.
“I want to make sure that even if I do have pain or don’t feel 100 percent, that I can still give it 100 percent,” Ferraro said.
The Sharks are also hoping forwards Matt Nieto and Alexander Barabanov can return this weekend.
Nieto has missed the past three games with an undisclosed injury, and Barabanov, who is third on the team with 16 assists, missed the win against Arizona with a lingering lower-body injury.
Sharks center Luke Kunin, who sustained a lower-body injury on his first shift on Tuesday, won’t be available against Los Angeles.
–Field Level Media