Quick once again among NHL's best
Two seasons ago, Jonathan Quick played a franchise-record 72 games for the Kings. Unless Quick plays every game for the rest of this season, he won't match that record, but he might get close.
Quick started his 45th game on Tuesday -- in the Kings' 54th game, a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay -- and coach Darryl Sutter indicated that, as the Kings fight for a playoff spot, Quick will get a lot of work.
The Kings are in seventh place in the Western Conference, with their spot in the postseason far from secure with two months remaining in the regular season. Backup goalie Jonathan Benier has been reliable, for the most part, this season, but Quick has been stellar.
Quick has ranked in the top five in the NHL in goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts for almost the entire season.
The Kings have six sets of back-to-back games remaining this season, so Bernier is likely to get some work, but Sutter said he doesn't have a schedule, and Quick is likely to get the vast majority of the work.
"It's the age-old thing about coaches trying to decide when their goalies are going to play," said Sutter, whose team next faces Florida on Thursday. "It's easy to have a plan when you're 10 points free of a (playoff) spot or 10 points out of a spot. Then you can have a plan.
"When you've got a clear-cut No. 1 goalie, and he's fresh and sharp, then he's going to play. You'd like to be the New York Rangers. They have the best goalie in the league right now, the goalie with the best goals-against and save percentage, but he has played fewer minutes than our guy. That's the perfect situation."
--The Kings are still struggling to score at even strength but their power play, an area of great concern early in the season, has shown signs of improvement. Entering Tuesday, the Kings were 10-for-35 on the power play in the previous 11 games. "The defense is attacking better," coach Darryl Sutter said. "If you look at the best power plays in the league, everybody looks at the end result and stops and shows the five guys and the plays they make, but our defense (is) a lot better at attacking with the puck and making lateral plays, instead of long plays and slowing it down. If half of your power-play time is having to retrieve the puck, you're probably not going to score."
The Kings went 0-for-2 on the power play Tuesday, but also went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill.
--The Kings rank last in the NHL in scoring, so naturally a lot of attention has been paid to the team's forwards, but coach Darryl Sutter said the defensemen should shoulder the bulk of the responsibility. Sutter, in recent days, has stressed the importance of defensemen making a good first pass out of the Kings' zone, and putting forwards in position to move the puck into the offensive zone.
"I know we talk about a lack of goal scoring, but I think we will score more -- or, this team is capable of scoring more -- if our defense would move the pucks quicker, get to them quicker, and move them more like the old hockey school, on the tape," Sutter said. "Know what your options are. All those things. That's what we've been trying to get them to do more of." The Kings' go-ahead goal came in the second period, off a long pass from defenseman Rob Scuderi to Kyle Clifford.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's pretty tough to only score two goals and win. At the end of the day, you need your goal scorers, especially on the road, to at least give you opportunities, to give you a chance." -- Kings coach Darryl Sutter.
--C Mike Richards has struggled the maintain much offensive momentum since he returned from a concussion in mid-December. Richards, who led the Kings in goals during much of the first half of the season, scored a goal in each of his first two games after his return, but Richards now has just one goal in his last 19 games. "I feel good out there," Richards said. "That's what is frustrating. When you're feeling good on the ice, you think that good things should come from it. It's frustrating when you work so hard and get nothing from it." Richards continues to center the Kings' second line, between LW Dustin Penner and RW Jarret Stoll, and assisted on Penner's second-period goal.
--D Alec Martinez seems to be getting another chance to be a regular part of the Kings lineup. The Kings' group of defensemen has been relatively healthy this season and Martinez, who played 60 games last season in his first full NHL season, had been a healthy scratch in 29 of the Kings' first 53 games. Martinez played Tuesday, though, for a second consecutive game. Coach Darryl Sutter said that, with the Kings in a tight playoff race, he wants the more-experienced Martinez -- who has two goals in 25 games -- in the lineup over rookie D Slava Voynov, who had supplanted Voynov.
--D Slava Voynov, a 22-year-old rookie, has been a lineup regular for most of this season, since being called up from the American Hockey League in mid-November, but Voynov was made a healthy scratch Tuesday for the second consecutive game. Voynov, who has four goals and seven assists in 33 games, sat in favor of D Alec Martinez.
"Slava was playing really good. Slava just turned 22," coach Darryl Sutter said. "When we're playing against teams, he doesn't even know the other players. We're trying to talk to him. As soon as he learns the league better, he's an awesome young player, and if we were in a different position, he would be in the lineup."
--Simon Gagne (concussion) was put on injured reserve on Dec. 28 and is out indefinitely.
--Scott Parse (hip) was put on injured reserve on Nov. 9 and underwent surgery on Dec. 2. Parse will be out until at least early April and might be out for the season.
--Rob Scuderi, Drew Doughty
--Willie Mitchell, Jack Johnson
--Alec Martinez, Matt Greene
--LW Dustin Brown, C Anze Kopitar, RW Justin Williams
--LW Dustin Penner, C Mike Richards, RW Jarret Stoll
--LW Kyle Clifford, C Andrei Loktionov, RW Trevor Lewis
--LW Brad Richardson, C Colin Fraser, RW Trent Hunter