Forget Quick… It’s the return of Bernier vs Ersberg!

You read that right.

It’s just not for a spot on the Kings. Instead, they’ll square off at the IIHF World Championships in Slovakia.

With Canada looking to lock down the top spot in their pool on Monday, coach Ken Hitchcock has announced he’ll start Jonathan Bernier in goal for their final game of the qualification round.

Bernier picked up a 3-2 win yesterday vs. Norway, stopping 25 of 27 shots. It was his first game played in the tournament.

At the other end of the ice for his second game will be Erik Ersberg of Team Sweden. The former Kings goalie was in net when the Swedes lost their opening game of the tournament to Norway, 5-4 (via a shootout).

Sweden hasn’t lost a game since and Ersberg hasn’t seen any game action since. However, having already won their pool play, he’s being given another shot before the quarterfinals start mid-week.

In other news…

* Slovenia lost in the relegation round to Belarus by a final score of 7-1. They’ve now been dropped out of the main pool for 2012. Just like Kings fans wonder how the team would have done vs. San Jose had Anze Kopitar been in the line-up, hockey fans in his home country now wonder the same thing about the national team. (read more about Gasper Kopitar’s dreams for Slovenia here)

* Even though the U.S. had Sunday off, they still qualified for the quarterfinals due to Switzerland’s loss to Sweden. Team USA plays their final ‘qualification round’ game tomorrow vs. the Swiss – that game airs live on VERSUS at 7am PST. Jack Johnson continues to lead the team in ice time in most games…and is an even-player through five games (he was minus-21 for the Kings this season). He also leads the team with 18 shots on goal..

* Alexander Ovechkin made it to Europe in time for the game, but Russia lost to the Czech Republic 3-2 on Sunday. Jaromir Jagr had the second goal of the game for his country. Ovi was held pointless.

* Michal Handzus and Team Slovakia haven’t played well at all. Let’s just leave it at that. They’ll play Denmark Monday.  It will likely be the final game of Pavol Demitra’s international career.

Quarterfinal match-ups will be announced tomorrow night and played Wednesday/Thursday. Regardless of the outcome of Monday’s games, seven of the eight slots have already been secured by Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, Sweden and the USA. Norway is the most likely eighth team. However, Switzerland has a slim chance at it.

[Monday morning update: Norway beat France earlier today to secure the 8th seed.  Switzerland will not advance to the quarterfinals, regardless of the outcome vs. Team USA.]

The Mayor
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