LOS ANGELES -- From star goaltender Jonathan Quick to goalie coach Bill Ranford to Los Angeles Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi, the message has been consistent about Quick's recovery from a strained groin.
The Kings are not going to rush the process.
Quick suffered the injury Nov. 12 at Buffalo, a grade two strain. Lombardi said Wednesday afternoon that Quick's return might come during the first week of January.
After Christmas, the Kings leave on a four-game trip that starts Dec. 28 in Nashville and concludes Jan. 2 at St. Louis. Although Quick has been on the ice since last week, and worked with Ranford the last two days, coach Darryl Sutter did not sound as if the goalie would be accompanying the team on the trip.
"No, until he's full practice ... I thought he'd be closer than he was and we'll just keep going," Sutter said. "... He's got a long ways to go."
What the Kings do after Quick returns is unclear. Does rookie Martin Jones, who is 6-0 with three shutouts, stay in Los Angeles or return to the minors? Do they move Ben Scrivens, an unrestricted free agent after this season, for an asset?
Ranford is staying out of that debate.
"That's what Mr. Lombardi gets paid the big bucks for; I work with whoever is in front of me," Ranford said. "You know what, the way I look at it -- that's great that these two goalies are going to make it a tough decision."
Quick has been working in a controlled setting with Ranford, and with goalie development coach Kim Dillabaugh last week.
"He looks fantastic," Ranford said. "You know, he's getting stronger every day. We just got to make sure that he's 100 percent. It makes no sense for him to come back for one game and miss 10. I think the message down the pipeline is to make sure when he's ready to go, he's ready for the long haul.
"He's professional in his approach. He's competitive, so it's tough pulling back on the reins here. We've got to make sure we've got him for the long haul."
Defenseman Willie Mitchell, who suffered an upper-body injury Saturday late in the first period in Ottawa, returned to the ice for the first time since that game, taking part in an optional practice.
"It was a good skate out there, so it was good. It was encouraging," Mitchell said. "...Today was a great step as far as going through things, figuring out what you can and can't do."
After suffering the injury, he tried to come back later in the game.
"I was trying to play because I didn't want to have my mates, my defensemen logging too much ice time," Mitchell said. "But there's a fine line between doing that and also being a liability.
"If you can't play because you don't have strength to battle and do all those things we do as defensemen, then you don't want to be on the ice doing that either."
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