The groin injury suffered by Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is expected to keep him out of the lineup at least until the final week of December, according to Kings general manager Dean Lombardi.
It should not, however, affect his status with the United States Olympic team.
Even if Quick doesn't play a game between now and the time the United States reveals its roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics on New Year's Day, he should be one of the three goalies for the Americans listed by general manager David Poile and coach Dan Bylsma. It would be a mistake to leave Quick out solely because he'll miss several weeks recovering from a Grade-2 groin strain.
Binding rosters are due Feb. 11, the day before the Olympic hockey tournament starts. The United States doesn't play its first game in the Olympic tournament until two days after that meeting, which means Quick should have ample time to scour the rust off before departing for Sochi.
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When healthy, Quick is clearly one of the two best options for the United States, along with incumbent Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres.
Quick's start to the season was merely average by his high standards (2.35 goals-against average, .905 save percentage), but he has been arguably the best goalie in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2012, when he won the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy. His bullet-proof attitude, big-game experience and unique athleticism make him the perfect Olympic goalie for the Americans when he's healthy.
Even with the injury, Quick is likely one of the three goalies best suited to helping the United States try to win its first gold medal since 1980. Before the injury, he entered the NHL season as the odds-on favorite to be the starting goalie for the Americans.
If there are still doubts about Quick's health come early February, then Poile and Co. have the option to replace him on the roster with another goalie that was on the list of potential candidates USA Hockey submitted to the International Ice Hockey Federation on Oct. 1. That list has not been made public.
USA Hockey will have to prove Quick's injury precludes him from playing in the Olympics to have him replaced, but that shouldn't be difficult if he also isn't playing for the Kings in early February.
That said, Americans have to be thinking along the lines of having four goalies for three spots now on a just-in-case basis. Groin injuries can be tricky for goalies. Expected return dates can easily be missed because goalies rely heavily on their lower-body flexibility for success. Quick especially leans on his athleticism and mobility to be at his best.
That's why it's so important to keep tabs on Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils and Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Miller, like Quick, should be considered a lock at this point. Jimmy Howard, Craig Anderson and Tim Thomas haven't fared well enough yet this season to warrant inclusion in this debate.
Bishop, though, has played his way into contention, despite not being at the orientation camp held by USA Hockey before the start of NHL training camps. Schneider, meanwhile, has made a strong enough case to be the third goalie traveling to Sochi.
Schneider proved his ability to handle adversity while he was with the Vancouver Canucks last season, when he was embroiled in a goalie controversy with Roberto Luongo. He's again showing how to play through adversity this season with the New Jersey Devils, winning just one of his nine starts despite a 1.98 GAA and .918 save percentage. New Jersey has scored 10 goals in his nine starts.
Bishop has been impressive enough with the Lightning (13 wins, 2.29 GAA, .921 save percentage) to catch the attention of Poile and the USA Hockey executives, but his big-game experience is limited to five appearances at the 2013 IIHF World Championship. He's never played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and has only 62 appearances on his NHL resume.
A sample size that small shouldn't be enough to convince the architects of the Olympic team that Bishop can be a gold medal-winning goalie in Sochi. And that's how they have to think about each of the goalies they send to Sochi. There's no way to predict if the No. 3 guy will be thrust into a starting role at some point in the tournament.
What if somebody goes down with a groin injury?