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by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Entering play on Tuesday, Jonathan Quick has posted a 25-15-3 record with a .907 SV% and a 2.54 GAA.

Nobody particularly wanted to say it aloud, because doing so might have risked crushing the confidence of an important player and putting an important season in jeopardy.

Kings coach Terry Murray tried to deflect the questions, but the truth couldn't be ignored: At one point this season, goalie Jonathan Quick wasn't playing real well.

Not terrible, of course. Far from it. But also not great, and certainly not up to the caliber of the U.S. Olympic team, for which Quick was under strong consideration.

Yet just as quick -- no pun intended -- as Quick fell into the rut, he pulled himself out of it. Saddled with a heavy workload this season, Quick has thrived. He earned that spot on the Olympic team and has helped elevate the Kings into playoff contention this season.

In his last 15 games, entering Tuesday's game against San Jose, Quick had allowed two or fewer goals 10 times. That's a solid barometer for goalies. Contrast that to the start of Quick's season, when he allowed two or fewer goals in only 10 of his first 25 games.

For the season, Quick has a 2.54 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage, numbers that are average for an NHL goalie but are steadily improving.

"That's what good players do, though. They get better as the season goes on,'' Kings defenseman and alternate captain Matt Greene said. "He's been playing so much for us. I think he had a little slip there, but that's how you tell a good player.

"A guy can have that little falter, recognize it, fix what he's doing wrong and come back even stronger, and I think that's what he did. He had a few games for us where, I don't think he was playing bad, but he was playing average. That's going to happen when you play 40-some games in the first half of the year. But he came back even stronger. In his last few games, I've been watching him, and he's been phenomenal."

For a while, Quick, who turns 24 on Thursday, was riding quite a wave of good fortune.

Consider December 2008, when the Kings traded Jason LaBarbera to Vancouver. They needed a goalie from Manchester of the AHL, and Quick's numbers at the time were slightly better than those of Jonathan Bernier, and Quick also had a bit of seniority.

Quick ran with the opportunity and finished with a 2.48 goals-against average in 44 games, one of the few bright spots in a relatively dismal season.

Quick even played well enough to be one of three goalies -- along with Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas -- invited to the U.S. Olympic orientation camp during the summer. Not bad for a kid who had just been drafted in the third round four years earlier.

It got better. In the first month of the season, Quick signed a three-year contract extension. The Kings, a team in search of a consistent No. 1 goalie for a couple decades now, had made a big statement by giving a young guy a multi-year contract.

"It gives you a brief feeling of relief that you know you're going to be somewhere for the next three years,'' Quick said.. "At the same time, you can't get complacent. There are some good goalies in the system, and you have to continue to work. I realize that.

"We have a lot of work to do as a team here in order to get to the playoffs, so you focus on that. You feel a little relief and then it's like, 'All right, now you have you to do what they're paying you for.'''

Continue to Part II.

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