When Los Angeles Kings superstar goalie Jonathan Quick was injured in their 50th anniversary season opener against the Sharks in San Jose on last October, all hope seemed to be lost.
But the Kings, resilient as they usually are under head coach Darryl Sutter, have managed to keep the ship afloat. Ranked No. 7 in the NHL Western Conference with a record of 17-3-3, the Kings never say die.
Quick suffered a groin injury while stretching to make a save and, at the time, his status was described as week-to-week, but he is still on the shelf and not expected to return until mid-February or March 2017, according to GM Dean Lombardi.
Quick decided to not undergo surgery and instead elected rehab. Backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff also suffered a groin injury during a practice session on October 22, so the Kings called up veteran goaltender Peter Budaj from their AHL affiliate in Ontario.
Budaj, now the starting goalie, has a record of 15-8-3.
“He’s given us a chance to win and that’s what you’re looking for,” Sutter said of Budaj. “We’re not asking him to be Jonathan Quick. Our first three games (Zatkoff in goal), for lack of a better word, we had awful goaltending. Our goaltending since has been good enough to give us a chance to win. The first three games it didn’t.”
Quick was stellar in goal during the Kings two Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014 and won the Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of the 2012 playoffs.
Quick is also a two-time U.S. Olympian and played at the World Cup of Hockey in September.
“Jonathan is obviously a special player,” Sutter said. “You just don’t replace that. It’s not different than only other star player. You just don’t replace or expect somebody to play the same way and do the same things. We also know we’re quite capable at that position.”
“I’ve got a very strict timetable here,” Quick said. “There aren’t really any shortcuts with this recovery.” He has been very impeccable and cautious about his rehab process. “It’s very light, very light resistance (exercises), just because it’s still trying to heal and you don’t want to reaggravate it. It’s coming along. Slowly, but it’s coming along.”
The Kings’ backup goalies have been exceptionally good during the Sutter years due to his focus on defensive play.
Hopefully the defensive play stays strong and the Kings continue to keep the ship afloat until Quick returns.
Steven LIeberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. Lieberman has covered entertainment and professional sports, Including the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball, for the past 14 years. Among his entertainment work, Lieberman covers concerts, theatre and events.