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Rich Hammond's Practice Report (10/1)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Can Jonathan Quick play 60 games this season as the Kings No. 1 netminder?
Kings coach Terry Murray would like at least 60 games from his No. 1 goalie. Jonathan Quick has done that before, two seasons ago, but most of those games were in the relative calm of Reading and Manchester.

Now, Quick is in the spotlight, one of the determining factors in whether the Kings reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Is Quick ready for the heavy workload and the stress that comes with it?

"A young player like Quicker, I think he's a very athletic guy, he's a very energetic guy, he's built the right way for a goalie," Murray said after Thursday’s practice. "He's a very strong guy and I think he can handle a lot of work, but at the start of the year, I always think 60 games and then adjust accordingly from that point."

Only once in the past six seasons have the Kings had a goalie play at least 60 games. Mathieu Garon played in 63 in 2005-06, when he split time with Jason LaBarbera. Other attempts to find a consistent No. 1 goalie (LaBarbera, Roman Cechmanek, Dan Cloutier) did not succeed.

Quick totaled 60 games during the 2007-08 season, including 38 with the ECHL’s Reading Royals, 19 with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs and three with the Kings. Last season, Quick played 44 games with the Kings and 14 with the Monarchs.

The key to sustained success, quite obviously, is conditioning, and coaches and management were pleased that Quick showed up for camp in good shape. Quick said he worked primarily on endurance training during the summer and also had a sprinting regimen.

"It's just maintenance and taking care of your body," Quick said. "If I don't take care of my body at the beginning of the season, toward the end of the season I will break down sooner, rather than later. It's just about getting into a routine and doing the right stuff, eating the right stuff after practice and recharging the battery properly. That's the biggest thing."

The Kings skated for approximately 45 minutes this morning, left the ice while it was resurfaced, then returned for roughly another 40 minutes of special-teams work.

For the Kings, who finished 14th in the league in power-play conversion rate (19.2 percent) last season, those are valuable minutes. Last season, the teams that ranked in the top eight in power-play conversion fared well. Seven of them made the playoffs, with No. 7 Buffalo as the lone exception.

Murray said he didn’t feel the need to change any of the team’s power-play structure or emphasis heading into this season.

"Structurally and system-wise, it's the same," Murray said. "I think it's real important to be consistent in that system, so that you can start to react as a player and play the game. In the training camp and exhibition games, I think we showed (ourselves) to be on the right page.

"To me, it's not a matter of surprising other teams with different looks and different systems. It's to be able to execute the right way and the support for each other that is really critical. As we were talking about, that shot and net-presence mentality. That's the repetitions that you have to go through."

Wayne Simmonds scored nine goals last season, as a rookie, and as the third-line right wing is charged primarily with being a "stopper" against the opposing teams’ top forwards.

Yet who tied with Anze Kopitar for the team lead in preseason goals, with five? Simmonds.

Simmonds, whose slight build made him appear downright fragile during his first training camp two years ago, has slowly but surely added bulk since then and is now a legitimate two-way player.

"I loved the way he finished off the year last year," Murray said. "In the last 10 games of the season, he was arguably one of our top three players on the team. He had a great summer. You can see the improvement. He has really worked hard and his attitude has always been, `I'm going to go after it and earn the right to be here again.'"

Murray said he also didn’t mind Simmonds dropping the gloves from time to time. Simmonds had the highest-profile fight of the preseason when he dropped Colorado’s Matt Hendricks with a left hand - "My secret weapon," Simmonds said with a laugh - during the game in Las Vegas.

"He's buying space and establishing his own career in this league," Murray said. "He doesn't go hunt people down or go out of his way, doing the wrong stuff. What he did in the Vegas game was, to me, the right thing. It was a player that left his feet, hitting one of our players, and he responded."

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