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A Shining Star

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
If Jonathan Quick should win a car -- the designated prize given to the MVP of the NHL All-Star Game -- this weekend in Ottawa, the Kings might have to get a couple dozen extra sets of keys made.

``We told him that if he did something special, and there was any kind of reward, that he would share it with all of us,’’ Kings coach Darryl Sutter said with a laugh. ``That’s the only thing that we recommended.’’

Not since Grant Fuhr, in 1986, has a goalie won MVP honors in the (usually high-scoring) All-Star Game, but Quick certainly deserves a car, or perhaps a fleet of them, for what he has done this season. The argument could be made that Quick has, largely on his own, kept the Kings in a playoff spot.

The Kings enter this All-Star break in seventh place in the Western Conference, despite the fact that they have the lowest-scoring offense in the league. Certainly, the Kings’ strong group of defensemen deserves some credit for keeping them afloat, but perhaps no All-Star is more deserving right now than Quick.

All season, despite paltry goal support, Quick has thrived. In 42 games this season, Quick has a 1.93 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. Only two other regular No. 1 goalies -- Brian Elliott and Henrik Lundqvist -- have numbers that strong, and both will be in Ottawa this weekend with Quick.

Boston’s Tim Thomas was voted in, by fans, as an All-Star starter.
Quick, St. Louis’ Elliott, the New York Rangers’ Lundqvist, Detroit’s Jimmy Howard and Montreal’s Carey Price are the other All-Star goalies.

Finally, after the Kings beat Ottawa on Monday night, Quick allowed himself a moment of public enjoyment for his All-Star nod. Since being named to the team on Jan. 12, Quick did his best to deflect All-Star questions, saying that he wanted to focus on the remaining games before the break.

Quick’s mood lightened Monday, after he stopped 27 of 28 shots in the victory over the Senators.

``Now, I’m looking forward to it,’’ Quick said. ``Obviously the past week or two, it’s been more about what was going on at the time, so you’re focused on that, but now that this game is done and over with, and I’ve got a couple days to relax and get ready for that, I’m expecting it to be a good time and I’m going to have some fun.’’

Quick is in for a bit of a whirlwind week. After some relaxation time on Tuesday and Wednesday, Quick is scheduled to fly to Ottawa on Thursday morning. That night, he will participate in the All-Star ``draft,’’ with captains Daniel Alfredsson and Zdeno Chara selecting the All-Star rosters.

Last year, all six goalies had been selected by the end of the 10th round of the 18-round draft.

After the draft, Quick will participate in Saturday’s skills competition, then Sunday’s All-Star Game. The Kings return to practice Monday in El Segundo, but Quick will fly home that day and is scheduled to be on the ice for the Tuesday (Jan. 31) practice in advance of the next night’s home game against Columbus.

So while that’s two cross-country flights in a span of five days, while the rest of his teammates have a chance to rest, Quick should be fine, in the view of Sutter.

``He’s going to get to reload,’’ Sutter said. ``He doesn’t get back here until Monday, after the game, so he’s going to miss a day of practice. Actually, he’s going to get a pretty good break in the whole thing, when you look at it. He’s going to get to enjoy the weekend there. There’s six goalies. They don’t get a lot of work.

``The biggest fear you have with goaltenders going to All-Star Games is that they get in that skills thing, and you’ve got guys bombing shots at them and trying to beat them on breakaways and all that. The reason all those goalies are there is that they’re great competitors. Touch wood, but we’ve seen goaltenders get hurt before at All-Star Games. That’s the only thing. You want the kid and his family to enjoy it, then get back to us again.’’

In fact, during last year’s All-Star festivities, Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller took two shots directly to the mask and, thereafter, missed a significant amount of action with what was eventually diagnosed as vertigo.

Fluke injuries can happen anywhere, though, so Quick and the Kings are not concerned. If anything, Quick’s biggest concern will be hearing the goal horn blare excessively. Since 1996, there hasn’t been an All-Star Game with fewer than 10 combined goals. The last two games have had 23 and 21 goals, respectively.

If Quick, perhaps the most competitive player on the Kings’ roster, needs some advice, he can turn to the Kings’ staff. Goaltending coach Bill Ranford was an All-Star in 1991, and assistant general manager Ron Hextall was an All-Star in 1988, and each had All-Star success in his respective game.

Ranford allowed three goals in 30-plus minutes in 1991, and his Campbell Conference team beat the Wales Conference 11-5. Hextall allowed two goals in 30-plus minutes in 1988, and his Wales Conference team beat the Campbell Conference 6-5 in overtime.

``It’s going to be tough,’’ Quick said. ``I’m going to have to talk to Billy and Hexy. I don’t know how hard I’m supposed to play. We’ll see how it goes. I think if I keep it in single digits, it’s going to be a bonus.’’
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