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Quick still excelling despite depleted Kings roster

by Curtis Zupke / Los Angeles Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Every four years Dustin Brown gets a reminder of why he appreciates Jonathan Quick. It happens when Brown and Quick are playing for the U.S. Olympic team instead of the Los Angeles Kings.

Brown has been with Quick throughout the 28-year-old goalie's NHL career, so he's used to seeing Quick carry the Kings and hide their weaknesses during rough patches.

"But going to the Olympics and him making saves over there and seeing guys react on the bench that way that haven't played with him on a day-to-day basis [reminds me]," Brown said. "Just seeing guys, how they reacted when he made some saves that probably very few goalies make."

The Kings have leaned heavily on Quick early this season because of injuries, including to two-way center Anze Kopitar, who missed three games Oct. 28-Nov. 3, and defenseman Jake Muzzin, who missed the first six games; the suspension of defenseman Slava Voynov; and their inability to free up salary-cap space to plug holes to their depleted defense corps.

Los Angeles played with five defensemen in a 5-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. On Tuesday, the Kings signed unrestricted free agent defenseman Jamie McBain, who could be in the lineup Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center, the first game between the teams since Game 7 of their Western Conference Second Round series in May.

Quick is off to one of the best starts of his career at 7-3-3 with a 1.86 goals-against average and .943 save percentage. It's more impressive considering he's faced 424 shots, second most in the NHL behind Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils (450), who has started 16 straight games. Quick's 400 saves are second only to Schneider's 407.

From a statistical standpoint, this is the most the Kings have had to rely on Quick since their Cup-winning season of 2011-12, when even Quick's incredible anchor left little margin for error for the Kings' poor offense for most of the regular season.

"I think it's not a good thing, from our standpoint," Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford said of the high number of shots Quick's faced. "We take a lot of pride in reducing the number of shots that we allow and we've always been a team in the top 10, not the bottom 10. I don't think he's ever gone through it."

Quick doesn't see the Kings' depleted defense as a factor, and he says he is not necessarily a goalie who is better when he sees a lot of shots and activity. That was evident Saturday when the Kings played a strong puck-possession game and allowed 19 shots in their win against the Canucks.

"I think everybody's been playing well," Quick said. "[The depleted defense corps] gives a few guys a couple of more minutes a night, which is good. It lets us get into more of a rhythm. I don't think it has changed performance just because we're missing a guy.

"I don't think I've played better because I get more, or I played better because I get less. Every game is a little bit different. You just kind of take the challenges as they come."

Quick's biggest challenge coming into the season was recovering from wrist surgery for an injury that he played through since the playoff series against the Ducks. He downplayed the surgery, but there was legitimate concern because it was the third major injury of his career after back surgery in 2012 and a Grade 2 groin strain last season.

But Quick started 5-1-1, and on Oct.23 he passed Rogie Vachon as the Kings all-time shutout leader (33). Quick passed Vachon last season for the most wins in Los Angeles history. It took him fewer than 350 games to reach those milestones.

Kings backup goalie Martin Jones can literally only watch and wonder how Quick holds himself to such a high standard while also playing with a chip on his shoulder.

"There's a lot of guys, especially at this level, that are competitive, but he's definitely up there," Jones said.

Brown says Quick might actually prefer to have more on his plate, and Quick may get more if veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr, who sat out the win against the Canucks because of a lower-body injury, has to miss significant time. Los Angeles is so close to the salary cap that it cannot recall someone like Jeff Schultz from the Manchester Monarchs, its American Hockey League affiliate. Voynov was designated a non-roster player to make room for McBain.

So does a busy Quick make for a happy Quick?

"There are probably games where he wishes he had more work," Brown said. "He likes to see it, but the way we play as a team -- most of the time we don't give up as many shots as we've been giving up -- but I think he'd probably prefer more work. It's just like games played; he'd rather play all 82."

Even coach Darryl Sutter won't go that far. The Kings can't ask much more of Quick, who is on pace for his first 40-win season.

In typical fashion, Quick isn't satisfied with his start.

"Personally, I would have liked to win more games," he said.

Author: Curtis Zupke | NHL.com Correspondent

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