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Kings begin practices without unsigned Drew Doughty

September 17, 2011 |  1:39 pm

Thomas-hickey_600

The Kings took to the ice Saturday for their first training camp scrimmages minus restricted free agent defenseman Drew Doughty, who remains unsigned.

General Manager Dean Lombardi said he had not spoken Saturday with Doughty’s agent, Don Meehan.

On the ice, it was business as usual -- or as close to usual as you can get without a franchise-quality defenseman.

“The plans do not change at all,” Coach Terry Murray said. “We’re going to miss Doughty. I wish he was here to be a part of it. He’s a very important player, a big part of the locker room. He’s a fun guy to be around. He’s a great player for us but the plan does not change for the training camp. We have to get ready for the start of the year. We’ll go through the same plan as we had in the early part of August.”

Murray said he didn’t think he needed to caution players about not letting Doughty’s contract talks become a distraction.

“It’s not my area of concern,” Murray said. “I know I’m the coach of the team and I want Doughty here but that’s the business side of it that everybody is very aware of the way it is. It’s been like that for years.

“Players use the opportunity, I guess, to get as much money as they possibly can. I don’t begrudge anybody that. I’m not going to be upset at Doughty when it finally gets settled. I’m going to be very happy that he’s here and welcome him to the team and let’s get going.”

No one quite knows when that will be, of course. The Kings’ last offer was an average of $6.8 million for about seven years, but Doughty is believed to be seeking $7 million or slightly more.

In the meantime, other players will get a chance to earn the copious playing time he got.

“I’m not too sure how that’s all going to play out but the opportunity’s there for someone to grab a position if Doughty does not show up here at the training camp near the end to be a part of the team on opening night,” Murray said.

“I can’t get into names but certainly there’s a position that we’re going to look to get some minutes out of and that’s a great opportunity for somebody.”

One somebody has thrown his name in the ring: Thomas Hickey, the Kings’ first-round pick and fourth overall in the 2007 draft.

“You can’t kid yourself. First thing you look at are one-way contracts because those are the guys that have earned them and the right to play here … and without him there’s only six,” Hickey said.

“I think all the [defensemen] understand that and understand the style that he plays. It’s a big void that’s left open and I think some of my skills could be useful moving forward if he’s not going to be here.”

Defenseman Jack Johnson, who negotiated his seven-year, $30.5-million contract extension last January without the help of an agent, said he was more than willing to help Doughty get a new deal.

"I kiddingly told Drew I would have done his for free," Johnson said. "I enjoyed it. I thought it was easy to do."

But not for Doughty, whose absence will remain a hot topic.

Otherwise, the first session featured a line of newcomers Simon Gagne and Mike Richards at left wing and center, respectively, with Dustin Brown on the right side. The three communicated quite a bit in the ‘You go here, I’ll go there’ vein, and they said they’re looking forward to meshing as camp continues.

Unless, of course, Murray switches the lines around, which he’s been known to do rather frequently.

Brown said he was familiar with Richards from playing against him but wasn’t as familiar with Gagne. “But that’s what training camp’s for,” Brown said.

Gagne said he and Richards rekindled the connection they established as Flyer teammates.

“It was good. Me and mike are used to doing our thing out there and I’m sure it’s not easy for Brownie to jump in but he was pretty good to adjust himself to us,” Gagne said. “Me and Mike will try to adjust to him too. I think it’s going to be fun. It can be a really dangerous line if we click right away and no better way to start.”

Richards said he’s still adjusting to his new surroundings. “It’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment but at the same time I’m excited to get it going,” he said.

We’ll have more coverage later at latimes.com/sports.

MORE:

Kings have made best offer to Drew Doughty, GM says

Key points for the Kings as training camp opens

Key points for the Ducks as training camp opens

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Kings defenseman Thomas Hickey participates in a rookie game against the Phoenix Coyotes last summer. Credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

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