By Mark Lamport-Stokes | Reuters
As the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings prepare to tackle the hectic challenge of a truncated 48-game season, they can count on one unexpected blessing due to the protracted National Hockey League lockout.
Had the campaign started in October as originally scheduled, their inspirational goaltender Jonathan Quick would have been a conspicuous absentee while recovering from back surgery after being plagued by a herniated disc throughout the 2012 playoffs.
However, the lingering labor dispute between the league and its players was only resolved earlier this month, giving Quick enough time to be ready to lead the Kings when they launch their title defense at home to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
“I feel great, it’s the best I’ve felt probably since last February,” said Quick, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player during the playoffs despite enduring pain since March because of a pinched sciatic nerve.
“There’s no pain now, and I get to just play.”
Armed with reflexes to match his surname, Quick helped his team win their first Stanley Cup with a series of brilliant postseason performances, allowing just seven goals in the best-of-seven finals against the New Jersey Devils.
Not once did he complain about the almost constant pain that eventually forced him to have a microdiscectomy in August when the herniated disc material was removed.
“If you’d sit on a plane, get in a car, drive to the rink, drive home or sit down for dinner, there was discomfort,” Quick recalled. “But when I was playing, that’s when I’d get the least amount of pain. It was manageable on the ice.”