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

Los Angeles Kings goaltender Joonas Korpisalo puts his mask back on after a timeout during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues Saturday, March 4, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Kings goalie Joonas Korpisalo puts his mask back on after a timeout in a game against the St. Louis Blues on March 4. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

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 the franchise’s two Stanley Cup championships and still had fans’ undying gratitude for that despite the obvious slippage in his game.

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

He’s not out to make anyone forget Quick. That’s not going to happen.

Nor is he Quick Lite. He doesn’t have to be.

“I’m just trying to be me, you know? No one else can be Jonathan Quick. He’s a living legend here. So no one can replace that guy. No one,” Korpisalo said after the team practiced Wednesday in El Segundo. “I’m just trying to be me and not replacing anyone, but just bring myself here and doing the stuff I do best.”

Quick, who was flipped by Columbus to Vegas, has made a tremendous turnaround with the Golden Knights, going 4-0 with a 2.22 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in his first four starts. He was nowhere 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 fizzled out, but he has no NHL playoff experience. Korpisalo has played nine postseason games, all with the Blue Jackets in 2019-20, and has a 1.90 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. That likely will 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 face Columbus in the third game of a seven-game homestand. Coach Todd McLellan said the coaching staff discussed interrupting that pattern to pit Korpisalo against his former team but decided to leave a good thing alone. It would have made for a nice story…

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