Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said Wednesday he’s not ready to “throw the kitchen sink” at another team to acquire a top-notch goaltender even if an upgrade were available and he could squeeze that contract under the salary cap. He also said Jonathan Quick, who suffered a groin injury in the season opener, is on course to return in mid-February. He initially said Wednesday that Quick would be out until March but amended that and called early March a “worst-case scenario.”
Speaking while his team practiced in Buffalo the morning after its second-period collapse in a 6-3 loss to the Sabres, Lombardi said he believes players have overcome enough adversity to figure out how to end their slump.
“We’ve had a lot of good players that I don’t think they’re at the top of their game,” he said, but he acknowledged having looked at goaltending help. Peter Budaj has appeared in 25 of the last 26 games, and Jeff Zatkoff — who got the loss Tuesday — has lost the trust of Coach Darryl Sutter.
“You’re almost going down to the third man on the depth chart when you’re talking to a lot of these teams, and then you also have the issue if you highlight a certain guy you have the realization you have a No. 1 goalie coming back, too, with expansion coming,” Lombardi said, referring to the fact each team can protect only one goalie in the expansion draft that will stock the Vegas Golden Knights.
“If he is a top guy you’re going to lose him, so what are you going to give up for a two-month asset? To be honest with you it hasn’t even been that type of player in play.”
Dustin Brown said after players met Tuesday they talked to the coaches “a lot” Wednesday. “We haven’t played well over the last five, six games,” Brown said. “You address it. A little bit of panic in our game right now, and that’s when you’ve got to come together and support each other.”
Farewell to The Joe
Thursday’s game will be the Kings’ last regular-season visit to Joe Louis Arena, known as “The Joe.” It will hold special meaning for Zatkoff and defenseman Alec Martinez, who grew up in the Detroit area and played youth hockey in the arena.
“I’ve got a lot of good memories. My dad’s company always had season tickets, so I grew up going to all the playoff games in ’97 and ’98 when they won it back-to-back [championships],” Zatkoff said. “It’s one of those arenas that has a special place in my heart.
“It’s funny. You’re standing there on the ice and as a little boy you dream of playing in the NHL and that’s the arena you always see. Fast forward 15 years and you’re watching the same anthem singer singing the anthem and you’re two feet away from her.”
Martinez said he practiced there as a child and played there for Miami of Ohio.
Brown made his NHL debut at Detroit on Oct. 9, 2003 and was dazzled by a lineup full of future Hall of Famers.
“I’m just an 18-year-old trying to make it,” he said. “I remember in warmup not really warming up, just kind of watching.”
KINGS AT DETROIT RED WINGS
When: Thursday, 4:30 p.m. PST.
Where: Joe Louis Arena.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790.
Update: The Red Wings are 0-2-1 on their current homestand and have scored only one goal. Overall they’re 6-8-3 at Joe Louis Arena this season. Jimmy Howard is expected to start in goal. The Kings are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games in Detroit.