The assignment is for conditioning, which essentially means that the netminder with be in the minors for 10 days in order to “get his game back.”
As we’ve been discussing, Bernier has struggled this season. He’s 0-8-1 with a 3.28 goals against average and a .888 save percentage. He has not played in the AHL since 2010, when he was a prospect for the Los Angeles Kings. The expectation is that Bernier will play about four of a possible six games for the Marlies, giving him a regular workload while the Maple Leafs try to pile up some wins.
Of course, that venture didn’t exactly pan out on Wednesday night as Toronto dropped a game to the Winnipeg Jets. Goalie Garret Sparks could not continue his storybook start with the Leafs, as he allowed six goals. He still made 29 saves on the night.
As far as Bernier goes, he had to agree to the AHL conditioning stint under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and he’s certainly done that. He’ll be paid his NHL salary under this “conditioning loan,” which cannot extend for more than 14 consecutive days.
“[Bernier] wants to get back in a game,” head coach Mike Babcock said. “We want him to get back in a game. We feel this is best for our team so that he can find his way back to being the goalie that he is capable of being for the Leafs…We need to get him feeling good about himself, being confident and helping us win games, so that’s the process we’re going through.”
Bernier hasn’t won a game in the NHL in regulation since March 3. He is 2-17-3 in his last 23 games, so confidence is obviously a big issue right now.
The Maple Leafs signed Bernier to a two year contract extension worth $8.3 million over the summer, but they weren’t able get much out of him. He was penned in as a starter over James Reimer for a time, but an injury and general confidence issues have stacked the deck against Bernier.
Reimer is expected to start on Thursday when the Maple Leafs visit the Minnesota Wild. Sparks will back him up.