Kings homecoming (part 2): Jeff Zatkoff says he’s where he wants to be after free-agent signing

Jeff Zatkoff knew what he was getting into when he signed a two-season, $1.8-million contract last summer. He understood the job description called for long, thankless hours of hard work during the day followed by extended periods of inactivity during the evening.

Zatkoff took the plunge anyway.

The opportunity was too good to pass up.

Plus, he had a connection to the Kings, who drafted him in the third round (74th overall) in 2006. Goaltending coach Bill Ranford tutored him, mentored him, but couldn’t offer him a single appearance in an NHL game before losing him to the Pittsburgh Penguins as a free agent in 2012.

Zatkoff returned to the Kings as a free agent July 1, after a four-year absence.

“I had interest from other teams, but at the end of the day, this is where I wanted to be,” said Zatkoff, who was 4-7-0 with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 14 games last season with the Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

Zatkoff, 29, isn’t likely to play very many games with the Kings this season. If all goes as planned, Jonathan Quick will play and Zatkoff will sit on the bench. Zatkoff also will work his tail off after practice in case something goes awry with his more accomplished and heralded teammate.

Quick’s backups normally play only a handful of games each season. Jhonas Enroth played 16 games last season and Martin Jones appeared in 15 in 2014-15. Enroth departed as a free agent during the off-season; Jones was traded in the summer of ’15.

“I think you know the situation when you come to L.A.,” Zatkoff said. “You want to play as many games as you can, but at the same time you’re playing behind arguably the best goalie in the league, one of them, anyway. That’s part of the job here.

“You’ve got be able to go in and play when you’re called upon, whether it’s 15 games, 10 games, 20 games, just depending on the circumstance, and be able to provide that leadership in the locker room and be a good teammate and be ready to go when your number is called, and win.

“I know my role here. I just want to do my job.”

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Kings training camp questions (part 4)

4. Who is Jonathan Quick’s backup in goal this season?

Say goodbye to Jhonas Enroth and hello to Jeff Zatkoff. He is a 29-year-old who signed a two-season, $1.8-million contract during the off-season, after going 4-7-0 with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 14 games last season with the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. He spent most of the season playing for the Penguins’ American Hockey League team and was in need of a job at season’s end. He will serve as the third backup in as many seasons for Quick, following Enroth last season and Martin Jones in 2014-15. It’s a lonely job, but somebody’s got to do it. Enroth played only 16 games last season, going 7-5-1, and Jones appeared in only 15 in ’14-15, going 4-5-2. Enroth departed as a free agent during the off-season, signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Kings open training camp Friday in El Segundo

Here’s the Kings’ schedule for the first three days of training camp:

Friday: Group A practice begins at 10 a.m. at the Kings’ practice facility in El Segundo (555 North Nash Street). Group B practice beings at 2 p.m.

Saturday: Group B practice begins at 10 a.m.; Group A starts at 2 p.m.

Sunday: Kings vs. Kings, Citizens Business Bank Arena, 3 p.m.

There are 64 players expected to attend camp, although some will be delayed because of their participation in the World Cup in Toronto (Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin for Canada, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik for Team Europe and Jonathan Quick for Team USA). The breakdown of the groups wasn’t announced.

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Pregame reading: Los Angeles Kings at Edmonton Oilers


Faceoff: 6:30 p.m. TV/Radio: Prime, 790-AM

The Kings fell out of the second wild-card spot when they lost in a shootout Monday to the Vancouver Canucks and the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Minnesota Wild. The Kings’ single point moved them into a tie for third place with the Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division, but the Flames hold the tiebreaker with more wins in regulation or overtime 39-37. The Kings also dropped to 2-8 in shootouts and when coupled with a 1-7 mark in overtime it helps to explain why they face another must-win game when they face the long-since eliminated Oilers. The Kings complete the regular season with games Thursday against the Flames in Calgary and Saturday against the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center. Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 63 points, including 47 assists. Backup goaltender Martin Jones might be called upon to play tonight after Jonathan Quick started Monday. Jones hasn’t started since a Feb. 27 loss to the Ducks and has appeared in only two games in relief since then. The Kings are 39-25-15. Jordan Eberle leads the Oilers (23-43-13) with 62 points (23 goals, 39 assists).

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Drew Doughty’s numbers take a beating in the L.A. Kings’ last two games

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty had a second consecutive rough game during Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. He took a key penalty in the third period that led to the go-ahead power-play goal for the Canucks’ Radim Vrbata. He also had a defensive rating of minus-3 in a team-leading 24:54. He also assisted on the Kings’ only goal, a power-play strike by Marian Gaborik in the second period.

Doughty also was a minus-2 in the Kings’ 3-2 overtime loss Wednesday to the Ducks, which was far from his best game of the season. He and Gaborik collided in a defensive breakdown that led to Ryan Kesler’s winning goal in OT. Doughty and Gaborik both went to cover defenseman Hampus Lindholm, leaving Kesler with plenty of open ice to set and fire a shot from low in the right faceoff circle past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.

Overall, Doughty’s plus-minus rating has dipped to plus-1.

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L.A. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick posts his 35th career shutout

Jonathan Quick made 20 saves in the Kings’ 1-0 victory Tuesday over the Detroit Red Wings at Staples Center for his fourth shutout of the season and the 35th of his stellar career. He and the Kings won for the eighth consecutive game. His longest winning streak is nine games set in 2009-10. His goals-against average is 1.63 during his streak, and his save percentage is .940.

“It just feels like some nights you see the saves he makes and you think he isn’t going to let anyone score tonight,” Kings winger Justin Williams said of Quick’s play. “He’s been a rock throughout this win streak, and he will continue to be.”

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Kings goalie Jonathan Quick named the NHL’s first star of the week

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick was 3-0-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average and a .959 save percentage in three victories last week, earning the NHL’s first star honors. He made 31 saves in the Kings’ victory Saturday over the San Jose Sharks in the Stadium Series game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The Kings (28-18-12, third in the Pacific) have won seven consecutive games and moved into a playoff position. Improved goaltending and defensive play have been the keys to the Kings’ surge. Quick’s goals-against average during the streak is 1.86 and his save percentage is .934. Overall, he is 24-15-10 with a 2.43 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in 50 games.

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Pregame reading: Los Angeles Kings at Florida Panthers



Faceoff: 4:30 p.m. TV/Radio: FSW, 790-AM

Two games, two losses, one goal. The Kings’ five-game trip started with a whimper instead of a bang and the reigning Stanley Cup champions awoke Wednesday to find themselves in 12th place in the Western Conference and out of the playoff picture. Their 5-11-6 road record, which includes a 1-6-2 mark since Dec. 11, is partly to blame for a lackluster 21-17-12 overall record. The Kings are 15-16-11 since starting the season 6-1-1. Goalie Jonathan Quick, the MVP of the playoffs during the Kings’ first run to the Stanley Cup in 2012, is 17-14-10 with a 2.51 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. Kings captain Dustin Brown called for more emotion from his teammates after a 4-0 loss Tuesday to the Capitals in Washington, which followed a 3-1 defeat Saturday to the Bruins in Boston. Florida is 22-17-10. The Panthers on Thursday recalled defenseman Steven Kampfer from San Antonio of the AHL.



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Update: L.A. Kings backup goalie Martin Jones suffering from back spasms

Backup goaltender Martin Jones suffered from back spasms so severe he was unable to dress for the Kings’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Ducks on Saturday. J.F. Berube was summoned from the Kings’ American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H., earlier in the day and he was Jonathan Quick’s backup. Jones’ ailment isn’t expected to sideline him for long, although his availability for Monday’s game against the Calgary Flames was not immediately certain.

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Martin Jones earns another start in goal for the L.A. Kings

Martin Jones earned a second consecutive start in goal for the Kings after shutting out the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-0 on Monday. He hadn’t started for a month, since a 6-2 loss Dec. 12 to the Montreal Canadiens, but was razor sharp against the Maple Leafs. His only other appearance was a relief stint after Kings coach Darryl Sutter pulled Jonathan Quick after three goals on nine shots Dec. 3 against the Nashville Predators. Jones gave up four goals in a 7-6 overtime loss to the Predators.

“He hadn’t played in a month, so I don’t know if he bounced back,” Sutter said of Jones. “We need both our goalies to win games. That’s all we’re doing. We want to give Quick a chance to get six or more days between games, and we need our other goalie to win games. It’s not bounce back. It’s either you win or you lose. If we had won the other night, then Quick would have played tonight.” Got it? Good.

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