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Top spots on Kings' defense are solid, but there are openings

Darryl Sutter will go with split squad to Arizona for first exhibition game Sunday.

September 14, 2013|By Lisa Dillman
  • Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, shown during the 2012 Stanley Cup final, played in Saturday's scrimmage at El Segundo after missing all of last year because of an injured knee.
Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, shown during the 2012 Stanley Cup final,… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

As the Kings' coaches try to best assemble the defense corps, it's almost like an active construction site. Only with helmets instead of hard hats.

Who fits best with the core pieces, the likes of Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov, Matt Greene and Robyn Regehr?

"If we're healthy, nobody's taking Drew's place," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said Saturday. "Nobody's taking Slava's place. Nobody's taking Greener's place. Nobody's taking Robyn's place.

"After that, there's holes there. There's boxes that don't have a name in there yet. Who's going to be Drew's partner? Who's going to be Slava's partner? Who's going to be Greener's partner? And who's going to be our seventh guy and who's going to be our eighth guy?"

The Kings have about 2 1/2 weeks to come up with solutions before the start of the regular season. But a few hints will start to emerge Sunday in the form of split-squad preseason games against the Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center and at arena in Glendale, Ariz.

Sutter is planning to go with the group to Arizona, and said that goalie Jonathan Quick, defenseman Willie Mitchell and captain Dustin Brown won't be playing in either game. The coaches are taking longer looks at goalies Mathieu Garon, Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones, and Quick won't be needed to play until later in the preseason.

Mitchell played in Saturday's scrimmage at El Segundo and Brown, who is suffering from a hamstring injury, did not. There was one goal scored in the scrimmage, by the way, and that honor went to one of the off-season acquisitions, left wing Matt Frattin.

Sutter said wasn't going to throw Mitchell "into the fire" on Sunday, considering the 36-year-old defenseman missed all of last season because of an injured knee.

Mitchell said training camp doesn't exactly produce the "smoothest hockey," but he is delighted to be back on the ice after all those months on the sideline.

"I'm just enjoying it too … being out there and doing everything," he said. "You never know, as you get older in this game, you never know when it can end. When you are young, you think you're looking good. You think you're going to play forever and nothing really catches up. You get a little bit older and just you realize how lucky of a gig it is.

"If something gets taken away from you for a little while, it makes you appreciate it a little more."

Twitter: @reallisa

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