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Quick might turn into Kings' first elite goalie in a while

MORNING BRIEFING

December 29, 2008|HELENE ELLIOTT

Rogie Vachon. Bob Janecyk. Yutaka Fukufuji. Mathieu Garon. Stephane Fiset.

Asked whether he recognized those names, Jonathan Quick replied to each with a laconic "Yup."

As a student of Kings history, Quick also must know of Dan Cloutier, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Barry Brust, Pauli Jaks, Sean Burke, Jamie Storr, Felix Potvin and Robb Stauber.

And who could forget -- though we'd like to -- Roman Cechmanek?

All of them guarded the Kings' net at one time with wildly varying degrees of success.

Some arrived with fanfare, like Fiset, who was 26 and had played for a Stanley Cup champion in Colorado. Others were stopgap moves, like Fukufuji, who was gone after four games.

And if all the franchise-record seven goalies who appeared in at least one game last season had stood side by side in the crease, the team still might not have won.

From the aforementioned list only Vachon, in the early 1970s, provided top-notch goaltending for more than a few seasons. The Kings' inability to find and develop elite goalies transcends generations and general managers and generally defies common sense.

That's why it's tempting to get excited about Quick, who has two shutouts in his first four starts this season and will start for the fifth consecutive time when the Kings play the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at Staples Center.

He stays square to the shooters. He doesn't get rattled. He's competitive and he's a quick learner -- after being banished to the ECHL last season because he showed up late to a couple of practices, he now takes practice as seriously as games.

"To his credit, he actually handled it pretty well," General Manager Dean Lombardi said.

Son of a father who's a route salesman for Entenmann's bakery and does construction work on the side, the 22-year-old native of Milford, Conn., knows the value of hard work.

Could he lead the Kings to the goaltending promised land? Or will he prolong a long and lamentable net-minding saga?

Quick, chosen in the third round and 72nd overall in the 2005 entry draft out of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is aware of all those who have failed before him.

"They've had some great goalies here in the past. I can't let any factors that I can't control affect me," he said Sunday, his close-cropped brown hair still sweaty after a brisk practice at El Segundo.

"I'm just trying to do what I can and help the team win some games."

Quick made his NHL debut last season, compiling a 1-2-0 record with an unremarkable 3.83 goals-against average and .855 save percentage. He had a strong training camp before this season, but Jason LaBarbera was handed the No. 1 job and Erik Ersberg, older and more experienced, edged Quick for the backup spot.

When Ersberg pulled a groin muscle two weeks ago, Quick earned the emergency summons from Manchester of the American Hockey League over Jonathan Bernier, long touted as a future franchise goalie. Their numbers were similar but Quick had a crucial advantage.

"He paid his dues," Lombardi said.

Ersberg is nearly ready to return, and all the Kings need do is file paperwork to change Quick's recall from emergency to standard. They will then have to make a roster move, which could be accomplished by putting center Brad Richardson on long-term injured reserve to rest his lacerated foot.

Quick may not be the ultimate answer to the Kings' goaltending woes, but he has given affirmative responses to the challenges he has faced so far. His shutout against Columbus on Tuesday was relatively easy, but he needed every bit of his poise during a penalty-filled third period Saturday in a 26-save shutout of Phoenix. He also was solid in a 2-1 loss to Phoenix on Friday at home.

"You've got to appreciate what you're given," he said. "I'm in a situation that not a lot of people get to enjoy. So I've got to enjoy every day and take advantage of it."

That included his detour to Reading of the ECHL.

"I learned a lot. I played a lot of games down there and saw a lot of pucks and kind of got an understanding for the professional level," said Quick, who was 23-11-3 in 38 games, with a 2.79 goals-against average and .905 save percentage for Reading. With Manchester he was 11-8-0 in 19 games with a 2.32 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.

"Maybe I wasn't too happy to go down at first," he added, "but looking back at it I learned a lot down there and it helped my game."

Some pointed comments from Ron Hextall, a former standout goalie who's the Kings' assistant general manager and Manchester's GM, helped correct his practice habits.

"That's something that the organization instills in L.A., Manchester and Ontario," Quick said, referring to the Kings' new ECHL affiliate.

"You've got to give them what they're asking for. It's not too much, what they're asking for."

All that Kings fans want is better goaltending than most of his predecessors provided. That can't be too much to ask, can it?

--

helene.elliott@latimes.com

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