The Los Angeles Kings fell to 0-3-0 last night, losing 6-3 to the Minnesota Wild despite outshooting them 30-26.
It was not a good night for goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who allowed five goals on just 16 shots and saw his save percentage fall to a ghastly .839. The Kings could be without starter Jonathan Quick for months, so a shaky Zatkoff is the last thing they need. Their backup is Peter Budaj, who’s spent the last two seasons in the AHL. Zatkoff himself only has 31 career NHL stars.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” head coach Darryl Sutter said of Quick’s injury, per LA Kings Insider. “There’s not one thing. I said it when Jonathan got hurt. There’s not one thing that I can do about it or anybody can do about it, right? You expect the guys that are in there to play as well as they can, and if they play as well as they can, that’s good. I mean, heck, that’s what you do, right?”
Many expect GM Dean Lombardi to add a goalie via trade. But that begs the obvious question: who’s he going to get? Ondrej Pavelec seems to be a popular answer, given he’s in the AHL after the Jets waived him. Here’s the thing about Pavelec, though — there was a reason the Jets waived him. His career NHL save percentage is .907. It was .904 last season. Perhaps he could turn it around with a new team, one that was better structurally than the Jets, but only perhaps.
At this point in the season, if a team has a good backup goalie, it’s not going to just give him away. Because backup goalies are important. They can be the difference between making and missing the playoffs. Would the Philadelphia Flyers have made them last year without Michal Neuvirth? Probably not. Neuvirth and Steve Mason are both pending unrestricted free agents, but if Flyers GM Ron Hextall is going to trade one of them, is he going to do it now? Not for nothing, that’s for sure.
The Kings’ next game is Thursday in Dallas against the high-scoring Stars. After that, they return home for three games against Vancouver, Columbus, and Nashville, then it’s off to St. Louis and Chicago to close out the month.
“Obviously it’s a tough situation,” said Budaj. “Jonathan is arguably the best goalie in the world. We miss him, but I think me and Zats are trying to do the best we can.”