Willie Mitchell practices and Matt Greene visits the doctor on eve of trip

A tale of two Kings defensemen …

Willie Mitchell practiced Monday with his teammates for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair torn meniscus in his knee. He traveled with the team to Denver to continue his workouts, but it’s unclear when he might make his season debut. He suffered a setback while skating during the lockout a few days after Christmas.

“Just to be out there with the guys and skate, that’s what you love to do, so it’s nice to be out there,” Mitchell said after the Kings’ 75-minute practice before they departed for Denver and the start of a three-game trip Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche.

“I felt good,” Mitchell added. “I didn’t really get into any major battles or anything like that. That will probably be the next step, but so far, so good. Just continue and try to keep getting better every day. You just hope the inflammation stays out of the knee. I don’t want to talk to you guys too long. There’s an ice bag waiting for me.”

Matt Greene suffered what Kings coach Darryl Sutter called a “mid-body injury” and didn’t practice with his teammates. Greene, praised by Sutter for his play against the Blackhawks, was sent to see a team doctor and his status for Tuesday’s game was uncertain. It wasn’t clear when he was injured or what body part was hurt.

“Greene came in banged up, couldn’t come in today and saw the doctor,” Sutter said. “Mid-body. I don’t know what you call that. We’ll see. Once we see what happened, we’ll let you know what it is. He was one of the guys who played hard for us (in Saturday’s loss to the Chicago Blackhawks), so there’s a chance he’s going to get banged up.”



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Kings center Anze Kopitar said he’s playing Tuesday against the Avalanche

Monday’s practice report …

Anze Kopitar said Monday he would play in the Kings’ game Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver. He sat out Saturday’s season-opening 5-2 loss Saturday to the Chicago Blackhawks because of a sprained right knee suffered while playing in Sweden during the lockout.

After participating in the pregame Stanley Cup championship banner and ring ceremony on the ice Saturday, Kopitar retreated to the dressing room and pealed off his uniform. He watched from the quiet of the room, and he didn’t like what he saw from the offensively-challenged Kings.

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Safe to say Darryl Sutter won’t wear his championship ring around the farm

Darryl Sutter said the other day he couldn’t see himself wearing his championship ring in public, thinking it might get caught on a wire fence on the family’s farm in Viking, Alberta. He could see it getting caught on a saddle horn. Or getting damaged beyond repair with grease from a tractor.

The Kings coach smiled wryly and shrugged at the though of wearing it on the farm.

When he actually received his ring, when the Kings handed them out to their players, coaches and staff members before facing the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, Sutter didn’t even peek inside the box to take a look. It’s not that he’s ungrateful. It’s just that the diamond-encrusted gem isn’t his style.

“I haven’t even thought about it,” Sutter said after the game. “I thought it was nice way to give it to us (before the game). I thought that was pretty cool. Then the guys got to see them. I haven’t even looked in the box. I haven’t seen it. I’m not a jewelry guy.”

Sutter then showed off a watch he was given while coaching the Blackhawks in the 1990s.

“So that’s how old that is,” he said, nodding at the simple gold watch with a black leather band.

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Kings offer a self-critical analysis after their loss to the Blackhawks

Opinions were mixed as to whether the Kings’ lengthy pregame banner and ring ceremony distracted them for their lockout-delayed season opener against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center. Some said it did, some said it didn’t.

Everyone agreed a team worthy of defending the Stanley Cup shouldn’t have been knocked off course by a 30-minute pregame ceremony, even an emotional one that had been put off for four months by the NHL lockout. The Kings should have played with a laser-like focus.

“You’re going to make some physical mistakes in these first seven or eight games,” Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said after a 5-2 loss. “That’s just the way it is. I expect physical mistakes, but we have to be prepared mentally and at least give ourselves a chance.”

In the end, the Kings’ best players weren’t their best players against Chicago.

“Actually, from that standpoint, if you worked it backwards based on how you perceive your lines and how you perceive your defensemen, I thought Drew was outstanding,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of Drew Doughty, who played a team-leading 25 minutes, 48 seconds.

“I thought our fourth line … was pretty normal,” Sutter added, referring to Kyle Clifford, Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan. “It was really physical and they scored a couple of goals on the forecheck, which you hope they get rewarded .”

The fourth line applied sustained pressure at least twice in the game, producing Scuderi’s goal late in the second period, a cross-ice pass from Fraser, and Nolan’s strike midway through the third period, off a centering pass from defenseman Matt Greene. Clifford picked up the second assists on each goal for his third career multi-point game.

The Kings’ top lines didn’t fare nearly as well as their muckers and grinders, however. Their second line of Dustin Brown, Simon Gagne and Mike Richards, for instance, were torched by the Blackhawks. Each finished with a plus-minus rating of minus-3.

“I think for the players, that’s something we learned — to see our rings and to see our banner going up — but at the same time, we probably weren’t nearly as sharp as we wanted to be as a team,” Brown said. “It’s one game, we’ve got to get back at it.”

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Five burning questions for the Kings going into their Stanley Cup defense

Five burning questions going into Saturday’s season opener …

1. Did the lockout cure their Stanley Cup hangover?

No team has repeated as champions since the Detroit Red Wings won back-to-back titles in 1997 and ’98. Only the Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins, in 2008 and ’09, have returned to the final round since the last lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season. So, the Kings are bucking recent league history as they try for a repeat championship. The four-month long lockout might have taken some of the edge off the traditional hangover championship teams suffer to start their title defenses, though.

2. Are they healthy enough to defend their title?

Goalie Jonathan Quick had back surgery during the offseason after earning MVP honors during the playoffs. He said during training camp he was sound and certainly didn’t show any lingering troubles from the procedure. Center Anze Kopitar won’t play in the season opener today because of a sprained knee suffered while playing during the lockout in Sweden, forcing some shuffling of the lines. Veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell won’t play today after undergoing knee surgery in December.

3. Are they more than Kings for a day?

Everyone remembers their downtown victory parade after they won the Stanley Cup, but does anyone remember their early-season struggles? Or the firing of Terry Murray and the hiring of Darryl Sutter at midseason? Or their late-season scramble just to qualify as the eighth and final playoff team in the Western Conference standings? It wasn’t all confetti and champagne last season, and it’s going to take a good deal of heavy lifting for the Kings to duplicate their championship feat this season.

4. Can they find more offensive firepower?

Last season, only the punchless Minnesota Wild scored fewer goals (177) than the Kings (194), a remarkable statistic in light of their Stanley Cup win. The Kings clicked on 17 percent of their power-play chances, a credible figure. But they need more even-strength goals to take the pressure off their special teams this season. It’s hard to say how the games will go during the lockout-shortened 48-game season, but the Kings can’t expect to win if they can’t score effectively while skating at even strength.

5. Will youth be served?

No question, the Kings have a nice mix of cagey veterans, skillful forwards and hard-hitting defenseman. They also have a group of youngsters that includes forwards Dwight King and Jordan Nolan and defensemen Alec Martinez and Slava Voynov. It stands to reason everyone will be counted on to aid the cause since injuries and lackluster play are bound to happen during a sprint of a season. The Kings, and every other team in the NHL, will benefit from strength in numbers this season.


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Anze Kopitar ruled out, Willie Mitchell skates, Justin Williams skips practice

Friday’s training camp report …

Injured center Anze Kopitar won’t play in this Saturday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. Kopitar skated with his teammates for a third consecutive day, but his sprained right knee isn’t sound enough to allow him to play in the lockout-delayed season opener at Staples Center.

Kopitar was injured two weeks ago while playing for a Swedish club team during the lockout. He was fitted with a brace to protect his knee and skated on his own Monday and Tuesday before joining his teammates for workouts Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. There is no timetable for his return to the lineup, however.

Jeff Carter is expected to move from the wing to center to replace Kopitar.

Mitchell skates

Veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell took a 20-minute “twirl” around the ice, as he phrased it, after his teammates concluded their practice. He underwent surgery to mend torn meniscus in his knee about seven weeks ago and he won’t play against Chicago.

Mitchell suffered a setback when he said he over-extended himself during a pair of workouts just after Christmas. He said he intends to “do it in a more controlled manner this time.” But there is no timetable for his return to practice with his teammates or to play in a game.

“I’m tired of working out, just like everyone was when they first started,” Mitchell said of his off-ice routine the last few weeks. “I’m learning. I’ve never had anything wrong with my knee before, but I’m learning about inflammation. I’m trying to keep the inflammation out of there and try to progress.”

Williams ailing

Right wing Justin Williams was ill and didn’t attend practice, Sutter said. The Kings, including the coaching staff, got flu shots recently. Sutter didn’t say whether Williams could play against the Blackhawks.


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Kings give contract extensions to GM Dean Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter

Apparently, a Stanley Cup victory is a gift that keeps giving. The Kings, in the wake of their first championship after 45 years of mostly indifferent play in the NHL, gave contract extensions Friday to general manager Dean Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter. Lombardi’s new deal is for four more seasons and Sutter’s is for three additional years.

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Kings are only concerned about themselves going into their opener

Thursday’s training camp report …

The Kings haven’t spent hours looking at DVDs of the Chicago Blackhawks, their opponent in their lockout-delayed season opener Saturday afternoon at Staples Center. Actually, the Kings haven’t really given the Blackhawks much thought, according to coach Darryl Sutter.

“I’ve coached against Joel for a long time,” Sutter said after Thursday morning’s practice at the Kings’ El Segundo training facility. “We know what to expect. It’s not like some deep, dark secret. I know a lot about those guys. They’re a good hockey team.”

Sutter referred to Joel Quenneville, coach of the Blackhawks and a longtime coaching foe.

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