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Kings, Ducks fans might be quick to forgive, if not forget

The Stanley Cup championship banner will be raised at Staples Center for the Kings, and Teemu Selanne might be skating his last season for the Ducks. But players know they need to win back fans.

January 06, 2013|By Lisa Dillman
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Forgiveness and reconciliation aren't expected to occur overnight after the NHL's 113-day lockout.

The band's simply getting back together might be enough in some markets.

The Stanley Cup championship banner being raised at Staples Center, possibly on Jan. 19 in an afternoon game, could suffice in Los Angeles. Likewise, 42-year-old Teemu Selanne's first shift in Anaheim in what could be his final NHL season might ease the bitterness.

"I think everybody is very excited and very happy it's over," Selanne said. "It's something you don't want to go through again. Hopefully, we can move on and be a hockey family again and play the greatest game on Earth."

Making good with the fans probably will take a lot longer than it did for the make-whole provision to be negotiated between the NHL and the players' association.

"You can't just have a Fan Fest and think they're going to come back," said Kings forward Brad Richardson on Sunday in El Segundo.

The players recognize it will take longer. Richardson was with his teammate and roommate, center Jarret Stoll, an instrumental figure in the Kings' run to the Stanley Cup in June. Stoll acknowledged the immediate and sizable task.

"We're players. We're going to go out and play and try to do our best and try and win for our fans," Stoll said. "And everybody is going to try and do the same. I think it's going to just be time. There's some very frustrated fans out there. We get that and we're sorry for that…. We have to deal with it now.

"It's tough. It's frustrating. But what do you do? It's a tough thing to answer."

The first step toward appeasement will come with the opening day of training camp this week. Timetables are all contingent upon ratification of the collective bargaining agreement as a tentative deal was reached early Sunday.

Camp is expected to run about a week. Whether the season is 48 games or extends to 50 or 52 games, all play would be within the conference. This would mean no Sidney Crosby against the Kings and Ducks in the regular season. And no regular-season games against the New Jersey Devils, the Kings' opponent in the Stanley Cup Final.

Of immediate concern, the Kings could open the season without the services of star center Anze Kopitar. Kopitar, who had been playing with the Ducks' Bobby Ryan in Sweden for Mora IK, suffered an injured right knee Saturday.

Dean Lombardi, the Kings' president and general manager, said the early word was that Kopitar suffered a sprain of his medial collateral ligament, which could put him out of games for two to three weeks.

"The good news, at this point, is that it is not an ACL," Lombardi said, adding that Kopitar will have an MRI test Monday and is expected to return to Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Lombardi also said Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell tweaked his knee about a month ago but he did not think it was serious. The long break was most beneficial for Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who underwent back surgery in late July. The team expects Quick to be ready for training camp.

Meanwhile, many players around the league were scrambling to return to North America. Kings captain Dustin Brown had played for the Zurich Lions during the lockout and hoped to return from Switzerland on Monday.

The Ducks forward Bobby Ryan had an amusing tweet about his travel logistics in Sweden: "That was fast, one minute I'm busing to our next game and the next I'm standing with my bags in hand at a random train station."

Once the logistics are resolved and the fine details worked out, the season will unfold in rapid-fire fashion with a compressed schedule. The Kings were slow off the mark in the lockout-shortened 48-game season in 1995, winning only two of their first nine games, and missed the playoffs on the final day of the season. However, that was a much older team.

Still, there is little room for a slump in a shortened season, let alone a prolonged swoon.

"You look at last year when we struggled at times and that can't happen," Lombardi said. "You see a team like Minnesota where they were really, really good last season. And if the season was cut in half, they might have won the conference."

Said Stoll: "Every game is going to be so big. In a normal season, from January, February on, they are so important to the standings. Three-point games everywhere. It's going to be no different, right from the start of the year. That's going to be exciting for the fans to get back into that."

Times staff writer Helene Elliott contributed to this report.

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