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MRI exam shows no setback for Kings' Willie Mitchell

Defenseman's recovery from knee surgery has been slow and GM Dean Lombardi says that when to rejoin the lineup is up to Mitchell, who has received medical clearance.

January 29, 2013|By Helene Elliott, Los Angeles Times

Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, whose recovery from knee surgery was expected to take a few weeks but has lasted two months, underwent an MRI exam Monday to gauge his progress.

"There was no structural damage and no setback," General Manager Dean Lombardi said Tuesday. Lombardi said the decision on when to rejoin the lineup remains up to Mitchell, who was medically cleared to play last week.

Mitchell didn't skate Sunday or Monday. The team was given Tuesday off.

Without Mitchell and Matt Greene (back surgery) the Kings have relied heavily on defensemen Drew Doughty and Rob Scuderi in crucial situations. Doughty played 29 minutes 59 seconds Monday in the team's 3-2 shootout victory over Vancouver, raising his time on ice to a league-leading average of 29:10. His defense partner, Scuderi, is averaging 25:20, which ranked 18th in the NHL through Monday's games.

For Scuderi, 34, that's a big jump from the 20:36 he averaged last season. But he said he hasn't felt tired.

"I think just because the season is early," he said Monday. "And it's not so much the minutes as it is the type of minutes. I think with the league mandate with the penalties it's been a lot more penalty kill and five on three.

"But if we're going to have any success this season, guys are going to have to step up, whether it be me playing a couple more minutes or someone else playing the minutes. It's going to take depth from within."

Doughty, 23, said he's enjoying the heavy workload.

"Me and Scuds both love to play as many minutes as we can. The more minutes you play, the more you feel into the game," Doughty said. "As the season has gone on we're getting in better and better shape. … He doesn't jump in the play as much as I do, so he doesn't waste as much energy. It's a good pairing. He stays back for me and I can do all the skating. For a man his age he's in unbelievable shape, and we love playing together."

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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