LOS ANGELES - For Randy Jones, it might seem like light years, but just 3 weeks ago he was buried in Glens Falls, N.Y., playing in the American Hockey League.
Now, after being claimed on re-entry waivers by the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 29, Jones is 3,000 miles away and has found a home on sunny Manhattan Beach in Southern California.
More importantly, he is back in the NHL. Both on the ice and away from the rink, it is a big change of scenery.
A serviceable defenseman, Jones was snapped up quickly by Kings coach Terry Murray - who was his defensive coach in Philadelphia under John Stevens. The Flyers and Kings are splitting his $2.75 million cap hit this season.
"It was really a no-brainer on my part of it," Murray said, "to have the opportunity to get him . . . because of knowing him so well. He can play. He's an NHL defenseman. I know that."
Murray said that Jones has been a "very useful player in all situations," and has backed that up by using the Quispamsis, New Brunswick, native on both the power play and the penalty kill. He was paired with Jack Johnson last night against the Flyers.
Jones, 28, had only played in four games with the Kings heading into last night but had already pumped in four points. He scored the game-winner in his first game on Nov. 11 in Carolina.
"There was a comfort level," Jones said yesterday. "[Murray] knows me and and I know how he coaches. It eases the tension coming in when they know how I play. They play hard-nosed hockey here."
Before he left Philadelphia, Jones stopped by the Flyers Skate Zone to pick up his belongings and say goodbye to the personnel who signed him out of college and coached him through the minors. He made a point to sit with Flyers coach John Stevens, who he won a Calder Cup with in 2005.
"I had a very strong relationship with coach Stevens," Jones said. "We didn't sit there and shed tears or anything like that. There's a lot of respect there. I spent 6 years with him."
"I have a soft spot in my heart for Jonesy," Stevens admitted. "He went through some injuries in the last couple of years, but he's a good player. I wished him good luck. I cheer for him and hope he does well. If they can't do well for us, I want them to do well for someone else in the league. He's a good kid."
Murray said the Kings' players have welcomed Jones.
"He's a real good fit," said Murray, who led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals in 1997 as head coach. "He really is a people person. They've readily accepted him from the first day that he got here. They've had a real good feeling about him."
Jones admitted it would be weird facing his former, and only, team, but made it clear that he has turned the page.
"I've moved on," Jones said. "It's a business. It's just another step in my career. It's great here."
Boucher gets a turn
At Tuesday's practice, John Stevens said backup goaltender Brian Boucher would "definitely" start one of the games on the five-game road swing.
All signs had pointed toward Boucher starting Saturday in Phoenix - against a lesser opponent and on the last leg of back-to-back games. Instead, he got his second start last night.
"We thought this might be a good point," Stevens said. "Ray [Emery] has played three games in 5 days there and traveled. 'Boosh' is rested and we've got lots of hockey this week. I think it's a good opportunity for Boosh to get in. We need him to play well on the road here and at the same time get Ray some rest."
Boucher was more than rested and redeemed himself after giving up four goals in a loss to San Jose on Oct. 25 in what he called an "awful" game.
Last night, Boucher stopped 37 shots, including 20 in the third period to earn his first victory since returning to the Flyers. He survived a flurry at the end of the game when the Kings pulled their goalie and Michal Handzus' tip in front of Boucher slipped by and narrowly missed the post.
Oskars Bartulis remained in the lineup last night as the sixth defenseman. He has played three straight games since his call-up last week, edging out healthy blue-liners Danny Syvret and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen . . . Terry Murray said yesterday that the Kings are trying to lure Wayne Gretzky into a position in the organization. He was hoping the Great One could help the Kings with the shootout . . . The Flyers will practice today in San Jose in preparation for tomorrow night's game with the Sharks. The Flyers are 5-3-3 at HP Pavilion since it opened in 1993. *