Most members of the Kings had to shake off a summer’s worth of rust when they reported to training camp. Defenseman Willie Mitchell has had to return after an unwanted eight-month break and it's no simple process.
Mitchell last played on Jan. 16. Then with the Vancouver Canucks, he suffered a concussion after being slammed into the boards from behind by Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin.
In mid-May, he was very limited in his physical activity. However, he improved and was cleared to play in early August, too late for the July 1 free-agent rush but in time to get a two-year, $7-million contract from the Kings.
“Willie Mitchell looks really good,” Coach Terry Murray said Sunday. “He’s very competitive. He’s a big guy that does a lot of things very well out there for us.
“I take into consideration that he’s been off the ice for a long time. And when you have the forecheck pressure coming at you it’s happening quickly. I think he’s readjusting to that kind of look, to get on the ice in a competitive atmosphere very well.”
Mitchell said he hasn’t had any problems beyond the usual transition to a new team.
“It’s been good actually. Not too bad,” he said. “For sure it’s a little bit of adjustment with anyone this time of year. Just trying to get the hang of a new system and new players and stuff like that, so it’s going pretty good.
“I’m just really anxious to get into a more structured format. That’s kind of been nice. You can only do so much in the summer. So getting a few practices underneath your belt, start getting your timing and those things get you that much more ready for the season.”
He hasn’t flinched from contact and on Sunday got into a battle in the corner.
“I pulled the reins back a little there. I don’t want to be in the first fight in training camp. I was pretty close to that too,” he said. “I was, ‘OK, I’m a new guy. Just settle it down here.’