LA Kings will take extra goalie to Europe – Jones or Zatkoff?

Martin Jones vs. Jeff Zatkoff

Which defensive prospect could potentially take Drew Doughty‘s spot in the Kings starting line-up on opening night isn’t the only question coach Terry Murray is wrestling with as he prepares for the team’s departure overseas.

Per NHL rules, teams opening in Europe are allowed to take an extra goaltender with them.

Just what he needs – more goalie drama.

Already bombarded with weekly questions about the ‘Jonathan battle’ – Quick versus Bernier – now he’ll get to deal with ‘the third goalie’ inquires for the next week or so.

Although Murray has yet to reveal who will be going, this much is clear – it’s expected to be one of the two goalies from Manchester, either Martin Jones or Jeff Zatkoff.

For now, Zatkoff says he’s trying to put it out of his mind.

“I think we all knew the situation going in, Beriner and Quick are great goalies. Both could be number one in this league. I’m just trying to make the most of my opportunity when I’m out on the ice and prove that not only can I play here, but that I can win at this level too.”

He also says he finally has his head clear, after letting the impressive start to Jones’ rookie season get between his ears for a few months.

“I think I got caught up with everything that was going on earlier in the year (referring to Jones’ strong play in net) and I wasn’t playing to the best of my capability. As the year progressed, I was able to overcome that and play more of my game. My numbers the last third of the year, that’s the way I’m capable of playing.”

As for any ‘rivalry’ with Jones, Zatkoff claims there isn’t anything there to talk about - “We have a great relationship. We both want to be in the net. It’s a healthy competition. I dont’ wish bad upon him and I’m sure he doesn’t wish bad upon me. But, we’re in the net, we want to make sure we’re at our best.”

Just how healthy is their off-ice relationship? They’re roommates back in New Hampshire.

“We lived together the whole year last season. When Alec Martinez was called up we had extra room to fill, so Jonesy moved in.  We have a great relationship and it’s always nice to have that with your goalie partner.”

Back to the possibility of going to Europe…

“For me, it would be a great experience, just to be able to go over with the team and watch the guys,” said Zatkoff.

If he does go, maybe he’ll find a little time for sightseeing as well.

“I’ve been to Stockholm once, for World Juniors. But, we were there for a day and then we were in Leksand. So, I didn’t really get to experience it. If I get the opportunity, I’d be really excited.”

Zatkoff was a third round pick of the LA Kings back at the 2006 NHL Draft, just a few months after GM Dean Lombardi was hired to head the club. He played college hockey at Miami University (Ohio) and then moved on to the Ontario Reign of the ECHL. Last season, he posted a 20-17-5 record in 45 appearances for the Manchester Monarchs, LA’s AHL affiliate.

Jones was signed as a free agent in October 2008 out of the WHL (Calgary Hitmen). In his first pro season last year, he went 23-12-1 for the Monarchs and represented the team at the AHL All-Star Game in January.

In the recently released MayorsManor top ten rankings of the Kings prospects, Jones finished number one. (full ranking available here)

The Kings coaches also had plenty of praise for Jones following the team’s Development Camp in July (link here).

Final note – the decision on which goalie to take to Europe also gets a bit sticky because JF Berube, who is slated to be the starting goalie in Ontario (ECHL) would normally be sent to Manchester to fill the void left by either Jones or Zatkoff being gone for a week or two.  Only one problem, he’s still recovering from hip surgery and hasn’t been cleared for full-contact practice yet.

Does somebody have Erik Ersberg‘s phone number?  Maybe he’s available.

The Mayor
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AHL Playoff Preview:  Five Questions with goalie Martin Jones

Date Night with your Los Angeles Kings – includes comments from Zatkoff

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