NEWARK -- When NHL rosters expand for the playoffs, the injured players working their way back to the lineup and the AHL call-ups make up the "Black Aces". They practice with the team daily and are there in case of injury or a needed roster move has to take place. Some times, Black Aces find their way into a playoff team's lineup.
For Los Angeles Kings goaltender Martin Jones, that likely won't be the case, unless disaster strikes the team.
Jones and 10 others were recalled on April 30 as the Kings were in the middle of sweeping the St. Louis Blues. Since then, he's been the extra netminder at practice and tended goal when players want some extra work or Jonathan Quick or Jonathan Bernier are given a breather. He knew if he found himself playing for the Kings during the playoffs, that meant injuries to Quick and Bernier or the either of them is playing very, very, very poorly.
Jones went undrafted in 2008 and ended up earning a contract with the Kings during a tryout camp the following fall. After finishing up with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League Jones has spent the past two seasons with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. Having to work to even be considered for a Black Ace role, Jones feels a bit of vindication for the call-up.
"It's nice to know that they wanted me to be a part of this," said Jones. "Going undrafted, it wasn't a good feeling, but good motivation to keep working hard and get where I wanted to get."
Showing up at practice in the middle of a playoff run was a little awkward Jones said. Everyone is so entrenched in their routines by that point you don't want to be the guy that accidentally messes up someone's routine.
Only 22, Jones is still learning to ply his trade at the professional level. He and the other Black Aces know the chances are slim to play, but it's a big chance for them to get a taste of the NHL and an education at the same time.
"It's an awesome experience just to be a part of it," he said. "All of us, we're just trying to soak up as much as we can and learn from these guys.
"It's a pretty special run they're on, so we're just trying to take it all in."
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy