While there is still more than three months to play this season, rookie goaltender Jon Quick may have the Los Angeles Kings thinking about the playoffs.
But to get his team back into the win column, Quick will have to beat one of the Eastern Conference's top teams as the inconsistent Kings play host to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night.
Los Angeles has alternated wins and losses in its last four games. Both victories have come on the road via Quick's first two NHL shutouts while the Kings have scored a total of one goal in two home defeats.
The Kings apparently have high hopes for the 22-year-old Quick. Earlier this week, they dealt former starter Jason LaBarbera to Vancouver for a draft pick, leaving Quick and second-year player Erik Ersberg as the only netminders on the roster for now.
In his season debut on Dec. 20, Quick gave up five goals in a loss to defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit, but has since gone 2-2-0 with a sparkling 0.76 goals-against average and .970 save percentage.
On Monday, Quick squared off against another emerging rookie goaltender in Columbus' Steve Mason, but the Kings fell to the Blue Jackets 2-0. Regardless, Kings coach Terry Murray likes what he's seen so far.
"He's giving us a chance to win the game every game that he's played and that's all you can ask from any goaltender," Murray said. "We have to score some goals for him, he's played with a lot of energy and a lot of composure and he's giving us a good look."
Quick's play could help Los Angeles reach the postseason for the first time since 2002. The Kings (15-16-6) are 14th in the Western Conference, but only four points behind Columbus for the eighth and final playoff spot.
And while they need to generate more offense, that could be a difficult task against the Flyers (21-10-7). Los Angeles has been outscored 22-11 while going 1-5-1 against Philadelphia since 2001.
Anze Kopitar scored for the Kings in the most recent matchup, a 3-2 overtime loss on Jan. 29, and they'll need him to start producing again. Kopitar, who scored a career-high 32 goals last season, has only 10 in 37 games this season, and none in his last eight.
The Flyers improved to 2-2-0 on their season-high six-game road trip with a 5-4 shootout win over Anaheim on Friday. That allowed Philadelphia - which started the season with six straight losses - to move into a tie for the Atlantic Division lead with the New York Rangers.
"We talked about it today for the first time, only because there was first place on the line in a very difficult division," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "It's been a long hill to climb, and it doesn't get any easier to try and stay there."
Captain Mike Richards, who had just two goals in his previous seven games, scored the shootout winner after drawing three assists in regulation. Richards has four assists in two career games against the Kings.
Martin Biron made 22 saves through overtime before denying all three shootout attempts to improve to 8-0-0 in his career versus the Ducks.
It's not immediately known who will start in goal for the Flyers, but neither Biron nor backup Antero Niittymaki have ever lost to the Kings. Biron is 3-0-0 with a 2.64 GAA in four career starts, while Niittymaki made 23 saves in a 4-3 win during his only career appearance in 2006.