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Hockey

Jonathan Quick might be close to returning as Kings place Jeff Zatkoff on waivers

Jeff Zatkoff
Jeff Zatkoff was 2-7-1 with a 2.95 goals-against average in 13 games for the Kings this season.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter has been careful to downplay Jonathan Quick’s progress in returning from the groin injury that sidelined him less than a period into the season.

But it wasn’t hard to see the significance in two recent developments involving the former all-star goaltender. The first came Tuesday morning in Colorado, where Quick took dozens of shots on goal as a pair of teammates stood near the crease, forcing the goalie to track the shots in traffic.

The second development came early Wednesday, an off day for the Kings, when the team placed backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff on waivers.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Quick will be activated off the injured-reserve list this week. Even if Zatkoff clears waivers, the Kings still can keep him on the roster. And if he’s claimed, they could recall Jack Campbell from the Ontario Reign to back up Peter Budaj.

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Despite all those options, Budaj is likely to remain the starter — although the early-March timetable for Quick’s return appears to have been accelerated.

Zatkoff is 2-7-1 with a 2.95 goals-against average in 13 games and 550 minutes this season, but he hasn’t started in a month. That suggests Wednesday’s move might largely be an effort to get a team in need of a backup goalie to take Zatkoff and assume the remains of the two-year $1.8-million contract he signed during the summer.

More injury news

Center Jordan Nolan, out since Feb. 4 with a pulled muscle, also was on the ice Tuesday in Colorado and appears close to returning. However, defenseman Paul LaDue was nowhere to be found after sustaining an upper-body injury over the weekend.

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VS. BOSTON

When: 7:30 p.m. PST Thursday

On the air: TV: FS West; radio: 790

Update: The Kings (29-26-4) will enter two points out of the playoff berth while Boston went into Wednesday’s game with the Ducks third in a three-team race for the Eastern Conference’s two wild-card spots. For Boston, the game is the third on a four-game western road trip, one the Bruins started with an overtime win in San Jose. The win was the fourth in as many games for the Bruins, who have scored 16 times over that span. The Bruins have two 25-goal scorers in David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. They also entered Wednesday’s game with the best penalty-kill in the NHL.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: kbaxter11

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