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Hockey

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick’s return from injury is a slow and tedious process

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick’s return from injury is a slow and tedious process

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stops a shot during a game against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 12.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Jonathan Quick knew something was wrong — maybe very wrong — during the final minutes of the first period of the Kings’ first game this season, but his mind initially refused to acknowledge what his body had felt.

“You have a few thoughts like, ‘Maybe it won’t be bad,’” he said on injuring his groin. “It was really late in the period, so I was like, ‘Just get through the period and hope it feels better during intermission.’ But I spoke with our trainer and he checked me out and it was kind of like, let’s not take any chances.”

Presented with a choice between rehabilitation or undergoing surgery on the injury — which is in the same area as a groin strain that idled him for two months during the 2013-14 season — Quick chose a non-surgical procedure to strengthen a tendon followed by rehabilitation. The Kings’ franchise goaltender and Conn Smythe winner in their 2012 Stanley Cup run is about two weeks into the rehab phase, and he hasn’t experienced any setbacks. But it’s slow and tedious work, and there’s no timetable for his return.

“I’m good,” Quick said a few days ago in his first public comments since the Oct. 12 mishap. “I’m just going through the process of getting back. It’s at times frustrating,  but you know what you’ve got to do, so you just do it.”

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Known for his remarkable flexibility and great power in his legs, Quick has had groin problems before. “It’s almost too much horsepower for a body,” Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said, noting that Quick had been dealing with nagging groin problems but was diligent in taking care of himself before things went awry in the season opener.

Quick said his style doesn’t make him more prone to groin injuries than his peers. “I think you look at goalies around the league, it’s somewhat common of an injury,” he said. But it’s different for each person, just as the path he took in recovering from his injury three years ago isn’t the same as his path he’s on now.

“It’s a little bit different,” he said. “But we’ve got a great medical staff and doctors and I think we put a great plan in place for what to expect and the best way to go through rehab and recovery. So, just go through that.”

Going through surgery wasn’t part of his plan. “I felt more comfortable with what I ended up doing. I just felt like everything would be healthier in the long run by doing this,” he said. “And also, you don’t have to go in and get cut open. To get to certain body parts you have to cut through other parts….

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“I don’t know if it would have been cutting through other muscles, but you’re going in and you’re using instruments that could cause damage. So especially that area of my body, I rely on very heavily on it to play, so I didn’t want to take any chances with causing any extra damage, so we said this is the best way to go.”

Lombardi was willing to accept short-term pain for the team in exchange for optimal long-term results for Quick, who has many good years ahead of him at age 30. And despite predictions the team would fall apart after Quick, winger Marian Gaborik and center Anze Kopitar were felled by injuries, the Kings have played well behind Peter Budaj, who was thrust into a starting role after backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff was slowed by — yes — a groin injury.

“I told him, the reality is you’re looking at a player in his prime and there’s no way we’re going to use a short-term fix,” Lombardi said. “It’s like I told Jon and the doctors, ‘It’s up to us to deal with this. It’s part of the game and it’s up to your teammates to pick it up. And we are not taking a short-term look at this.’ The extreme was, I told the trainers and the doctors this, that if he has to sit out a whole year to get to 100 percent, then that’s what we’re going to do, particularly when you’re dealing with an injury like this.”

That worst-case scenario is unlikely. “The one thing the doctors told me, if we pursue this course, that he’s going to come back better than he ever was,” Lombardi said. “That’s what I wanted to hear.”

Quick said he hasn’t felt pressure to accelerate his return because so many teammates have been injured. “I’ve got a very strict timetable here. There aren’t really any shortcuts with this recovery,” he said. His first steps back, including cardio work, have been cautious. “It’s very light, very light resistance, just because it’s still trying to heal and you don’t want to reaggravate it,” he said. “It’s coming along. Slowly, but it’s coming along.”

Being home has allowed him to spend more time with his kids, although he joked that daughter Madison, 6, finds it strange that he’s around so much. “When I pick my daughter up from school she’s a little surprised sometimes that I’ve come to get her,” he said. Watching games has been fun but exasperating for him.

“You want to be out there. Everybody loves playing. It’s why you work so hard in the summertime and put the time in, to be able to play the game, so when you can’t do that, it makes it a little tough,” he said. “But I know what I have to do in order to get back, so I just focus on that.”

helene.elliott@latimes.com

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Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen


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