Ian Clark's On Hockey: Jones vows to move forward with Monarchs
GOFFSTOWN -- As splashes go, they don't get much bigger than goaltender Martin Jones' introduction to the NHL.
Called up to the Los Angeles Kings in mid-November when Jonathan Quick went down with a groin injury, the 23-year-old Jones (who returned to the Manchester Monarchs Tuesday) had to wait two weeks to make his NHL debut while Ben Scrivens manned the L.A. net.
Jones finally got his chance on Dec. 3 ... and it was a wild ride from then on. Jones won his first game against Anaheim and then posted consecutive shutouts against the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens. Jones won his first eight NHL games, becoming the second goalie to do so (tying Philadelphia's Bob Froese from 1982-83).
Overall, Jones went 8-3-0 with a 1.41 goals-against-average, a .950 save percentage and three shutouts. With the Monarchs this season he is 9-2-2 with a 2.24 goals-against-average and a .927 save percentage.
"Jonesy has had an incredible first half to his season. He's done himself proud," Monarchs head coach Mark Morris said. "He got us started in the right direction to kick off our season and then he's been a big reason why the Kings have been able to keep step with some of the top teams in the Western Conference. His play has been stellar and to get him back here comes at an opportune time."
Jones said that having to sit and get acclimated in L.A. for a couple weeks before playing was a good thing for him.
"It's the best league in the world and you know what you're getting yourself into," Jones said. "Having that couple weeks when I first got there was good. I got a couple weeks of practice in and that helped me get used to it."
Jones said he was more nervous the night before his debut than during the game.
"Once you start going through your routine you go through and realize it's the same game and you just do the things that have made you successful," Jones said. "I was happy to do whatever I needed to do to help the team, whether that was support (Scrivens) when he was playing or in practice. But it was nice to finally get in there and win some games and help the team. It was a great experience."
From that first game against the Ducks, Jones' star was on the rise and his consecutive shutouts suddenly had him all over the NHL Network and beyond. But Jones said he tried to stay insulated from all the hype.
"It wasn't too tough. When you're around the guys and part of the team, we have a really good group of guys and you try to block it all out," Jones said. "For me, it was easy and good motivation to not change anything, not change my work habits and continue to push myself in practice and push my teammates and do the little things that got me there."
It was that same approach to his game at the NHL level that allowed him to have success, according to Kings head of goaltender development Kim Dillabaugh (who is in town with Monarchs this week).
"I think Martin is a pretty even-keeled guy overall and I think he knows what to do to be successful in the American league or at the NHL level," Dillabaugh said. "The way he approaches things on a daily basis, nothing with him will change. The way he conducted himself before he went up made the transition easier."
Jones will step back into his role as the No. 1 goaltender with the Monarchs, who remain atop the AHL (tied with Springfield) with 52 points on the strength of a 23-9-6 record. Manchester hosts Bridgeport Friday at Verizon Wireless Arena at 7 p.m. and will seek to reverse a rough patch. The Monarchs are 2-4-1 over their last seven games.
Rookie J.F. Berube went 14-9-2 in Jones' absence and kept the Monarchs rolling along. But getting Jones back should help the Monarchs get back on pace, thanks to his proven track record with his teammates.
"J.F. Berube did a wonderful job for us and logged a lot of playing time. I think that getting Jonesy back will make for a good situation for us to have," Morris said. "There's an element of trust you have and his experience goes a long way with his teammates and he's also a bit of a mentor in some ways for J.F."
As for what instructions the Kings had on Jones' return to Manchester, it was pretty simple.
"The message is, don't take any steps backwards," Jones said. "I made some good progress when I was up there and I'm happy with where my game is at and I just don't want to take any steps backwards and keep working hard. Getting a taste of it up there and it gives you good motivation to get back there."
PEARSON UP: As expected, the Kings called up forward Tanner Pearson from the Monarchs. This is Pearson's second recall of the season. The 21-year-old rookie has appeared in six games for the Kings this season (his first in the NHL), recording one goal.
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com.