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Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell is eager to play in home opener

October 07, 2013|By Lisa Dillman
  • Willie Mitchell is playing again after missing last season with a knee injury.
Willie Mitchell is playing again after missing last season with a knee injury. (Jack Dempsey / Associated…)

For Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, there was something that eased the hurt of not playing in last season's home-opener against Chicago.

Sort of.

"When I watch it [the game] downstairs on the [in-house] feed, it doesn't seem as real, I guess," he said. "When you watch it upstairs, it becomes very real. That there is 19,000 people and you're not out there playing and it kind of gets the better of you.

"For me, I like to watch it downstairs because it doesn't eat me up as much."

Mitchell missed the home opener and all of last season with an injured knee. He has managed to get past several hurdles, the most recent being games played on successive days to open the season. The next benchmark is Monday's home opener against the New York Rangers, the first truly meaningful action for Mitchell at Staples Center since the Kings' Stanley Cup clincher against the New Jersey Devils in June 2012.

He was much better in Winnipeg on Friday than he was at Minnesota on Thursday.

"I'll take that coming off all my knee issues," Mitchell said after Monday's morning skate. "All those timing plays, closing off plays at the blue line, winning battles down low, getting the puck, poking it the other way, just making some good reads.

"I felt much better. Where I'd like to improve is offensively, starting to get a few more shots on goal. I've had a couple of opportunities, but I don't have any shots on goal yet. Not that I'm super-super offensive, but I'd like to add that a little bit."

It appears as though the Kings will go with the same lineup as they featured in the first two games. The extra players were left wing Daniel Carcillo and defensemen Keaton Ellerby and Alec Martinez and they stayed on the ice for additional work at the team's facility in El Segundo.

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter talked about the nuances of Mitchell's skills.

"I think he's progressing,"  he said. "Willie's strength is his being able to read and defend really well, a lot of it is with his stick and then move the puck. I think where he is had a hard time is the pace of the other team when he's had the puck.

"Not when they have the puck. I think he's been fine that way. That's pretty much playing games."


Forward Scott Sabourin, who made a big impression in training camp, was signed to a three-year, entry-level contract. He has been with the Kings' minor-league affiliate in Manchester, N.H., of the American Hockey League. Manchester opened its regular season on Saturday.


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