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Kings' Willie Mitchell to make return on familiar Minnesota ice

October 02, 2013|By Lance Pugmire
  • Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, left, battles Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog for the puck during a preseason game.
Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, left, battles Avalanche left wing Gabriel… (David A. Cleveland Jr. /…)

All the pain, frustration and waiting will be over for Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell on Thursday night when he returns to the NHL ice, fittingly, at the venue where he made his name.

“I feel excited and fortunate to be in this spot,” Mitchell said Wednesday after the Kings’ practiced in El Segundo before boarding a flight to play their regular-season opener at 5 p.m. Thursday against the Minnesota Wild at XCel Energy Center.

“There’s a sense of satisfaction. I did have to work hard for this. It was tedious work," Mitchell said. "When you feel like you’ve made the sacrifices and the right commitments and things go as planned, you feel pretty good about your decisions and your process.”

Mitchell, 36, endured two knee surgeries and missed all last season, an absence of more than 15 months before Thursday’s return. The Kings are 74-39-20 when he’s in the lineup.

Mitchell played in Minnesota from 2000 to 2006 and met his wife, Megan, there. He has left “20 or so” tickets for his in-laws and other family and friends to mark the occasion of his comeback.

“It’s going to be special to share that with them, and to try to harness that excitement to my advantage and start the process of winning the division,” said Mitchell, who’ll be partnered with Slava Voynov.

Mitchell described his rehabilitation as a “life experience.”

“I could’ve gone home and said, ‘All right, I won a Stanley Cup, that’s my last game,’ and gone on with life,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t want to do that. I enjoy hockey. I feel like this has been the best hockey I’ve been playing of my career. I enjoy this real fun group here, and we can accomplish great things if we stay healthy.

“I’m going to embrace it, have this sense of accomplishment and harness it to do my thing again.”


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