Kings franchise goaltender Jonathan Quick underwent a non-surgical procedure designed to strengthen a tendon rather than opting for surgery for his injured groin.
Although the recovery and rehabilitation process can be unpredictable, Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said Wednesday that he expects Quick to be out for "about three months." The injury is said to be in the same area where Quick sustained a strained groin at Buffalo in 2013 and was out for nearly two months.
The thought is not to rush the process and to make sure Quick is completely recovered. Quick suffered the injury late in the first period of the Kings' season opener at San Jose last week. He consulted a handful of top doctors to determine his options and decided against surgery. Quick had the procedure Tuesday, according to Kings' hockey operations.
Quick was put on injured reserve last week. Placement on long-term injured reserve would give the Kings salary cap relief, but a team executive who was asked if Quick would be going on long-term injured reserve told The Times, "Not now."
So do the Kings go out and acquire a goaltender? Or do they hope the team finds a way to tread water until Quick gets back?
The early returns in goal are less than encouraging.
Goalie Jeff Zatkoff start-ed the next two games after Quick's injury and had a rough outing Tuesday at Minnesota in a 6-3 loss. He was pulled after two periods and replaced by veteran Peter Budaj. Zatkoff (0-3) has a goals-against average of 4.38 and a save percentage of .839 this season.
Quick's extended absence is not expected to trigger a major deal because the Kings have salary-cap issues. They will certainly study the marketplace but would probably go for a cheaper alternative, if they were to make a move outside the organization.
Goaltending coach Bill Ranford discussed the revised expectations/workload for Zatkoff and Budaj after Quick's injury. His comments came a few days before Quick's procedure.
"We're going to need both of them," Ranford said Saturday. "They're two guys that have been No. 2 in this league. We need them to be No. 1A and No. 1B and be ready to play and give us a chance to win.
"He [Budaj] has got lots of experience. He has a little bit more experience than Jeff, and hopefully they can help each other out and push each other to get us through this stretch."
Budaj, 34, is two games away from his 300th regular-season appearance in the NHL. In 2014-15, he appeared in 19 games without a win at the minor league level (with Winnipeg's affiliate) before regaining his confidence last season with the Kings' American Hockey League team in Ontario, winning 42 games and recording nine shutouts.
"He came here and had to earn a job and just carried the ball … a little bit more detail to his game and being ready to play every night," Ranford said of Budaj's time in Ontario. "It was a challenge that he needed."
But this situation is wildly different from the last time the Kings were without Quick for a lengthy period. They had a No. 1 in waiting in youngster Martin Jones, and Ben Scrivens played the best extended stretch of hockey of his career after Quick was hurt on Nov. 12, 2013 in Buffalo. Scrivens and Jones combined to go 14-7-3 during Quick's injury absence.
Quick has been durable since the first groin injury. He returned in early January and went on to lead the Kings to their second Stanley Cup title, in 2014. He appeared in 72 games in 2014-15 and 68 last season.
Quick missed three games last season because of an undisclosed injury. He had two other injury issues out of season — back surgery after the Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and wrist surgery after the Cup win in 2014.
KINGS NEXT UP
When: Thursday, 5:30 p.m. PDT
On the air: TV: Fox Sports West; Radio: 790.
Update: Stars forwards Ales Hemsky (groin) and Jiri Hudler (illness) are not expected to play against the Kings. The likely starter in goal is Kari Lehtonen.