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Jonathan Quick has been a revelation for the Los Angeles Kings, providing goaltending stability for an organization that was at a crossroads between the pipes only two years ago.
And the Kings are returning the favor by giving him all the minutes he can handle. Heading into Friday's action, the NHL's top minutes man wasn't one of the usual suspects from recent years. It wasn't Martin Brodeur. It wasn't Miikka Kiprusoff. It wasn't Roberto Luongo, and it wasn't Evgeni Nabokov.
It's Quick, the 23-year-old from Milford, Conn., whose 2,047 minutes in the crease this season outdistance his nearest competitor, Brodeur, by more than four regulation games.
"I enjoy it," said Quick of his workload. "We have a great team here. I enjoy going out and battling with the guys every night. It's a lot of fun.
"Being a goalie, you need to be extremely lucky at times — not only in the games, but timing-wise, in terms of when you get your opportunities, from high school right on up through college, junior, minor pro," added the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder, a third-round L.A. draft choice in 2005.
"Two years ago, I was playing in the East Coast League, and if someone had said that two years from now, I'd be in this situation, it would have been hard to believe. You need to catch some luck along the way, and I feel like I got a lot of luck. I was in the right spots at the right time, and things have worked out so far."
After playing 44 games with the Kings last season, Quick has made Erik Ersberg the Maytag repairman of NHL goalies this winter. Quick, who's rung up 20 of the Kings' 22 wins, has spent about 91 percent of the time in the L.A. crease, compared to Ersberg's nine, and Kings coach Terry Murray has no problem with that ratio.
"He's lovin' it. He's thriving on these minutes, and the opportunity to play," Murray said. "He's a good kid; he's a skilled player; he loves to work. Physically, with his makeup, he's the kind of guy who can handle those kind of minutes, and he can get used to it, because I'm going to continue to play him as we move forward after the Christmas break."
As Quick had mentioned, he had spent a large chunk of the 2007-08 season — 38 games' worth — riding the bus with the ECHL's Reading Royals. The results, says Murray, are currently on display at Staples Center, and various other NHL arenas.
"Playing in the minors is a good thing, in my mind, especially in the goaltending position. There was a reason why he was in the ECHL; he was in the American League (with Manchester), and I think he had an issue of being late for practice one day," Murray said. "As a result, the decision was made that he needed to go ride the bus in the ECHL for a while.
"It's good for him. You're playing lots of games, three in three nights, lots of travel: it's like playing in Western (Canadian) junior hockey. It's a good test of character, and you learn to battle through it."
Quick's numbers are not spectacular — his goals-against average (2.58) is 19th across the league, while his save percentage (.904) ranks 33rd. But it's not the statistics that have impressed his Kings teammates.
"Two years ago, I was playing in the East Coast League, and if someone had said that two years from now, I'd be in this situation, it would have been hard to believe. You need to catch some luck along the way, and I feel like I got a lot of luck. I was in the right spots at the right time, and things have worked out so far." -- Jonathan Quick
"And if anyone's got a personality built for taking it all in, and keeping their head on their shoulders, it's Jonathan," added O'Donnell. "I'll come back to see how he's doing after we score a goal, or the other team scores a goal, and you can't tell if we're up 7-1, they're up 7-1, it's a pre-season game or a playoff game. He's the same all the time, and that's calming for a team."
Quick's sudden rise to prominence hasn't just been monitored in Tinseltown. The USA Hockey folks in Colorado Springs, Colo., after making Quick one of three goaltending invitees to their 2010 Olympic orientation camp at Woodridge, Ill., in Chicago, have clearly been watching, too.
Does Quick wonder whether he'll wear the Stars and Stripes in Vancouver?
"I have a job to do here with these guys, and I focus on that 100 percent," Quick said. "There have been times where I've had questions from the media about (the Olympics), and quite frankly that's really the only time I think about it or address it."