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Kings' Doughty ready to play, will try a mouthguard

Doughty_300 Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, cleared to play for the first time since suffering a concussion on Oct. 20, said he will force himself to wear a mouthguard as a precautionary measure against further injury to his brain. Some concussion experts believe that mouthguards reduce concussive forces and dissipate or absorb the energy of an upward blow to the jaw.

Doughty, 20, wasn't wearing a mouthguard when he collided with Carolina's Erik Cole. He has worn one in the past for dental reasons but became impatient with it. He said after Wednesday's practice at El Segundo that he had sustained some "little minor" concussions in the past that had kept him out of a game here or there but had never sat out six games, as he did this time.

"I'm not a fan of the mouthguard. I should be," he said. "The team is trying to get me to wear it so I think I'm going to start wearing one now. I got my teeth knocked out last year and now this, so I might try a mouthguard.

"I just wish I wasn't so stubborn. I had to wear one for a couple weeks last year and all I did was chew on it. I'm going to have to get used to it real quick here. Concussions are a bad thing. I'm going to need to figure that out."

Doughty, who was cleared by the team's medical personnel on Tuesday, said that after experiencing some symptoms last week—as expected—he has felt fine for several days and through several hard practices. Although he said he had very little contact Wednesday he did initiate some contact on Tuesday, even though he wasn't supposed to, but he had no ill effects.

"I've been feeling good for a little while now. It was just making perfectly sure I was ready to play," he said. "You don't want to mess around with stuff like that."

The Kings were 4-2 during his absence. "No question you miss your top defenseman," Coach Terry Murray said, "but the great thing about it is we came through it in pretty good shape. It shows a lot of character on the team. Guys stepped up and played very well in the games he was out.

"I thought Jack Johnson in particular took charge of the blue line and showed that he's a player that's going to be a pretty darned good player if we keep going with him here in the future. He did a lot of good things when Drew was out of the lineup on power play, on five-on-five, on both sides of the puck."

Doughty will be paired with Willie Mitchell, his previous partner. Jake Muzzin was assigned to Manchester of the American Hockey League.

Scott Parse, who pulled a groin muscle during training camp and has yet to play this season, is scheduled to be in Thursday's lineup against Tampa Bay at Staples Center. He will play the left side with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. "He needs to play now," Murray said. "We need to find out where he is at, how he's going to fit in, what kind of role he's going to perform. So get him into some competitive games and let's get a read on him."

Left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky, who missed Tuesday's practice because of the flu, practiced Wednesday and is expected to stay on the third line with Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds. Murray said he hadn't decided on a fourth line.

Jonathan Quick will start in goal, with Jonathan Bernier scheduled to start Saturday at home against Nashville.

More later at www.latimes.com/sports

--Helene Elliott

Photo: Drew Doughty. Credit: Harry How / Getty Images

 
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