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Kings update: New off-season approach helps Thomas Hickey

September 22, 2011 |  6:59 pm

Hickey3
Keeping it simple, unfortunately, isn’t always so simple.

Just ask any young defenseman trying to make an NHL roster or navigating the league for the first time. Thomas Hickey, a first-round draft pick (fourth overall) in 2007, opted for a new approach to prepare for what could be a make-or-break Kings’ training camp.

He stayed home in Calgary and decompressed with family and friends, taking his skate off the all-hockey-all-the-time pedal.

“I was down here all last summer [in 2010]; the strength coach here is very good,” Hickey said after practice in El Segundo on Thursday. “He knows what he is doing. But, for me, I felt I needed to be home and refresh the mind. The work load was the same, but it’s just a different style of doing it.

“I love playing hockey and being at the rink. But to really appreciate it, you’ve got to take time away. Before too long, you’re hungry to get back to the rink and you wish training camp was a week away. I felt that way quite early in the summer.”

One preseason game doesn’t mean an automatic spot. But Wednesday’s shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center served as an effective measuring stick of progress for the 22-year-old Hickey.

“I think there’s a lot more control than in past seasons. Just learning the pro game, especially defense in the neutral zone, there’s a lot of scrambling and running around,” Hickey said. “On the offensive blue line, I used to move way too much, a lot more than you need to. I’m much more conservative now.

“You can use your energy in short bursts. You can step up and hit or make little plays, and the puck is always coming to you as opposed to using a lot more energy and not being efficient at all.”

Kings Coach Terry Murray agreed that Hickey was doing a far better job of keeping it simple and echoed some of his postgame assessments, saying Hickey didn’t hold onto the puck too long or try to do too much with it.

“It was off his stick at the right time, fast enough for the forwards to maintain their speed and get on the attack,” Murray said. “The other side of it that I didn’t see very often [before] was that strength in one-on-one plays along the boards. He was pinning some guys and sealing guys off.”

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Sleepy time

The Kings start the regular season in Europe, and the team will be addressing some of those issues. Murray said that a sleep expert will be coming to the rink Friday to talk to the players.

There is the matter of handling jet lag on both ends of the trip and a message for the youngsters. Murray said the latter point will be getting the “younger guys to understand the importance of rest.”

Murray said they will also be holding practices much later in the day once they arrive in Europe in order to help the adjustment process.

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-- Lisa Dillman

Photo: Kings defenseman Thomas Hickey during a preseason game in 2010. Credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

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