Kings eager for Sean O'Donnell's return Thursday
Sprung from the Colin Campbell Correctional Center for Wayward Hockey Players, Kings defenseman Sean O'Donnell is happy to be done with the five-game suspension he drew from the NHL's top disciplinarian for his blow to the head of an opponent during an exhibition game.
"I feel like I'm let out of jail," said O'Donnell, who will return to the lineup Thursday when the Kings face the Wild at Staples Center. "I haven't played a real game in six months now, so I'm looking forward to getting back with the guys."
The guy who missed him most was his defense partner, Drew Doughty, who has had a rough start without O'Donnell's calming influence and knowledge to rely on.
"Drew makes some real good plays out there, but he's still 19," O'Donnell said. "You look at him and see some of the plays he does and you just figure, 'Oh, well this guy is something special,' and you think it's going to be that way every shift. And it's not. He's still playing against men, still playing against the best guys in the world. He's still a work in progress."
Doughty decided to to the politically correct route. "I enjoyed playing with him last year, and he helped me out a lot, so to be back with him is going to be great," Doughty said, "but I enjoyed playing with Davis Drewiske too. He's a great defender."
Coach Terry Murray was visibly relieved to have O'Donnell available to pair with Doughty.
"O.D. is going to be welcomed back," Murray said. "He's an important player for us. Experience, presence. Just a lot of the intangible stuff that happens in the locker room and is said in the locker room, he's a big, big part of it."
Alec Martinez (lower-body injury) is still out, and winger Richard Clune (groin pull) is progressing. Jonathan Quick will start in goal Thursday, but Murray said that he has drawn up a goalie schedule through December and that it includes giving Erik Ersberg a start on the upcoming trip.
More later at www.latimes.com/sports--Helene Elliott