It's been fun, but it's only a matter of time, Mark Fitzpatrick believes, before the Kings send him back to Medicine Hat, Canada.
"I'm actually surprised that they still have me here," the rookie goaltender said Wednesday. "I more or less expected to play pretty well in training camp, and then go back to juniors early."
Instead, he "mixed the cards a little bit," in the words of General Manager Rogie Vachon, playing well enough in camp to earn a chance to play in an exhibition game.
Last Friday night at Winnipeg, the 18-year-old goaltender from Toronto stopped 11 shots in 29 minutes and combined with Rollie Melanson for a 3-0 shutout of the Jets.
Wednesday night, before a crowd of 6,019 at the Forum, the Kings gave Fitzpatrick an entire game against the Jets to show what he could do.
He stopped 30 shots, but this time 4 got past him, including 3 in a span of 3 minutes 1 second in the first period of the Kings' 6-4 victory.
It wasn't a poor performance--he held the Jets scoreless in the last 30 minutes--but neither did Fitzpatrick "stand on his ear," as several King officials had said he would probably have to do to keep from being sent out.
"I'm not disappointed in Mark's performance," Coach Mike Murphy said. "He was competitive, and boy was he there in the crunch. He made some big saves when Winnipeg was up, 4-3. He became large when the game was on the line, and that's the sign of a good goalie."
But Fitzpatrick realized, even before the game, that his chances of making the team were not great.
Ostensibly, he is battling another rookie, Glenn Healy, for the job as backup to Rollie Melanson.
Healy, 25, who won 46 games at New Haven the last two seasons, is seven years older than Fitzpatrick and used up his junior eligibility long ago. The Kings have said he has nothing left to prove at New Haven.
The Kings believe that Healy, who is expected to play the full 60 minutes tonight at Tucson against the Vancouver Canucks, has earned a chance to play.
That leaves Fitzpatrick as odd man out.
"The reasonable expectation is that he's going to go back to juniors," King assistant coach Phil Myre said of Fitzpatrick. "I'm not saying the decision has been made, but that's a reasonable conclusion."
King Notes The Kings broke a 4-4 tie by scoring power-play goals just 28 seconds apart in the third period. Dave Taylor, standing to the left of the net, took a pass from Luc Robitaille and lifted the puck over goaltender Daniel Berthiaume into the net with 3:32 left; then Joe Paterson put in a rebound with 3:04 left. . . . The Kings' exhibition record is 3-3. . . . Before Thomas Steen scored for Winnipeg at 12:36 of the first period, the Kings hadn't given up a goal in 146 minutes 30 seconds, including shutouts of Vancouver and Winnipeg. . . . The Kings must submit to the National Hockey League office today their list of protected players--17 skaters and 2 goaltenders--for Monday's waiver draft. Skaters who have not completed more than two seasons in the NHL and goaltenders who have not completed more than three seasons in the NHL are exempt. Twelve Kings fall into those categories, including rookie goaltenders Mark Fitzpatrick and Glenn Healy, meaning that all 17 of the other players on the roster will be protected. However, one of the two veteran goalies assigned to New Haven last week, Bob Janecyk or Al Jensen, will not be protected. . . . The Kings acquired center Bob Bourne from the New York Islanders in last year's waiver draft.