Mark Hardy returns as Ontario Reign assistant coach.

Mark Hardy was running out of superlatives Wednesday to describe what it meant to become a professional hockey coach again.

“Awesome.” “A dream come true.” “A step in the right direction.” “A great feeling.”

You get the picture.

The 52-year-old former Kings defenseman and assistant coach turned down an offer to become a salesperson for a local electrician, choosing instead to return to the game as a minor-league assistant with the Reign. The one-year contract was formally announced today, one day after Jason Christie was named the new head coach.

Hardy’s exile from the Kings, and subsequent recovery, has been well-documented here and elsewhere. Will that come with a negative reaction, or is all forgiven from Kings fans?

I’ll have his thoughts about that, as well as those from Reign President Justin Kemp, in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

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Ethan Moreau signs, and he’s pissed off.

Ask Ethan Moreau, and he’ll tell you it’s a good thing not too many teams inquired about his services this summer.

“Because it makes me pissed off for the season coming up,” said the 35-year-old forward, who finalized a one-year, $600,000 contract with the Kings on Tuesday.

Most athletes will tell you they play better with something to prove — the proverbial chip on the shoulder — and Moreau definitely has something. While Kings assistant general manager Ron Hextall said they were “thrilled to have him,” he’s well aware why Moreau was still on the free-agent market in late August: Teams were scared off by a lengthy injury history that included a 2010-11 season in which Moreau played just 37 games.

“Last year was a tough year, whenever a player is getting on in years, everyone questions whether he’s capable of doing it anymore,” Hextall said.

Moreau — who passed a physical Monday –insists he can still do it.
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The skinny on Ethan Moreau.

Veteran forward Ethan Moreau is scheduled to complete a physical today, which would be the last hurdle before the Kings can make his 1-year contract official. The deal has been reported in various places at $600,000.

Moreau’s history suggests that passing a physical is no slam dunk.

3 p.m. update: Moreau has passed his physical and is expected to finalize the contract tomorrow.

The former Edmonton Oilers captain, who turns 35 on Sept. 22, never established a role for himself with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season because of three separate injuries. The first, on Oct. 20, came when Moreau was struck by a slapshot and broke his hand. That cost him 17 games. The second, on Jan. 4, came when he was diagnosed with rib cartilage damage after an on-ice collision. That cost him another 17 games. The third, on March 22, came when he blocked a shot and bruised his foot. That cost him the final nine games of the regular season.

On the surface, all three injuries seem to reflect poor luck rather than poor physique. But even if Moreau gets a clean bill of health, the cynic can argue it won’t matter – read Exhibit A here:

The optimism about Moreau sounds more than a bit out there in Columbus, where Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Post-Dispatch writes, “The Blue Jackets wanted to claim Moreau rather than let him become a free agent on Thursday, sources said, where he’d be seeking a two- or three-year contract. He is seen as a perfect compliment on the Blue Jackets’ third line with center Sammy Pahlsson. The Blue Jackets can certainly use his size, intensity and veteran presence in the dressing room.”

Bottom line: Moreau will be greatly defying the odds by staging a comeback season at his age with his injury history.

That was a year ago. Moreau’s final stats — 37 games, one goal, five assists, and a minus-9 rating — seemed to prove those early odds were correct.
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Kings’ national TV schedule announced.

The Kings will make their national television debut from Sweden this season, among 14 scheduled appearances announced Thursday by the NHL.

The Kings-Rangers game on Oct. 7 in Stockholm will air on Versus (and be simulcast on Canadian network TSN). Versus will also air Kings road games at St. Louis (Nov. 22), Tampa Bay (Feb. 7), Colorado (Feb. 22), Minnesota (Nov. 28) and Chicago (March 11).

The Chicago game could air on NBC. The network also has the option of airing that night’s Boston-Pittsburgh game, with the other game going to Versus. Twenty-two games were selected to air on NBC this season — not including the Winter Classic at Philadelphia on Jan. 2 — but the Kings might not get any major-network exposure in Year 1 of the reported $2 billion, 10-year broadcast deal between NBC and the NHL.

The NHL Network will air seven games: four at home (Nov. 19 vs. Detroit, Dec. 3 vs. Montreal, Feb. 25 vs. Chicago and March 24 vs. Boston) and three on the road (Dec. 17 at Detroit, Feb. 4 at Carolina, April 7 against San Jose).

Fox Sports West/Fox Sports Prime Ticket will return as the Kings’ local broadcast partner in 2011-12.

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Rookie camp dates announced.

The Kings announced the dates for their annual rookie camp, including the annual two-game Rookie Tournament against the Phoenix Coyotes. Camp practices will be held from Sept. 10-13 and are open to the public free of charge.

The rookie tournament will take place September 14 at 6 p.m. and September 15 at 2 p.m.

All practices and games will take place at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo.

The Camp/Tournament roster, practice times and ticket information (for the tournament) will be announced in early September.

This is the fourth consecutive year the Kings and Coyotes have met in this Tournament. The Kings hosted the tournament in 2009, while Phoenix hosted the 2008 and 2010 editions.

The full NHL training camp begins Sept. 17 at the Toyota Sports Center.

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Shea Weber is worth $7.5M. What’s Drew Doughty worth?

Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber was awarded $7.5 million today in arbitration. That’s the highest arbitration award in NHL history, surpassing the $7 million award to John LeClair in 2000.

Weber also becomes the game’s highest-paid defenseman, surpassing Brian Campbell’s $7,142,875 average annual salary through 2015-16.

The arbitration award probably comes as bad news for Nashville, certainly comes as great news to Weber, and can’t be bad for Drew Doughty. With Doughty and the Kings still working on a new contract, Weber’s salary will certainly become a bargaining chip on Doughty’s table.

But how much is that chip worth?

Kings GM Dean Lombardi was asked essentially that very question last week, following Mike Richards’ introductory press conference.

“I think (Weber’s contract) gives you some evidence, but even he’s different because he’s a year from (unrestricted) free agency,” Lombardi said. “That’s one of the hard parts you’ve got here – there’s not a lot of defensemen, other than Dion Phaneuf, Duncan Keith, there hasn’t been a lot-a lot of these top young kids who have gotten top dollar, most of them are forwards. You’ve got a big hole in the market of what defensemen are (worth). You could even say (Keith) Yandle, there’s a similarity in numbers but he’s older than Drew. So he’s not totally analagous. You could say Weber – but he’s older, he’s one year away.

“So is it relevant? Yes, but it’s a question of how much weight you really give it. You’ve got a lot of these things that are out there, throw in the fact that the CBA is going to be up …you’ve got all of these little issues, piece in how much weight you give each one, then put it all together.”

Doughty earned $3.475 million including bonuses last season in the final year of his entry-level contract, according to capgeek.com. Like Weber, he’s already finished second in the Norris Trophy race. Doughty can argue that his 43 assists and 59 points in 2009-10 were both better than Weber’s single-season career bests, but Weber boasts four seasons with at least 16 goals. Doughty dipped to 11 goals and 29 assists last season; Weber had 16 and 32, respectively.

Most important to remember, an independent arbitrator will not have the final say of how much Doughty makes. The Kings will certainly try to convince Doughty’s camp to be flexible with the structure of his next contract by asking him to consider the bigger team picture.

“Our biggest concern is fitting it into a salary structure that allows us to -that’s our biggest concern. However you come to the number, the bottom line is making that number fit in where you are and where you want to go,” Lombardi said last week.

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