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Mitchell, Richards to miss games

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings

The Kings beat the Florida Panthers 2-1, but they also lost two significant players to injury, as Willie Mitchell left with a lower-body injury early in the first period and Mike Richards left with an upper-body injury late in the second period. Both players are expected to miss multiple games.

Officially, the Kings have not disclosed Richards’ injury, but general
manager Dean Lombardi acknowledged that, after being hit by Florida’s Sean Bergenheim, Richards spent time in the league-mandated ``quiet room’’ and was not allowed to return. That’s part of the official diagnosis for concussion symptoms.

Richards is expected to be (retroactively) put on the injured-reserve
list tomorrow, meaning he would not be eligible to play until at least Dec. 10. Mitchell isn’t expected to be put on injured reserve, with the hope that he might be able to return in a few days, but coach Terry Murray sounded less optimistic.

Asked about the status of both players, Murray grimly said, ``It’s
going to be a few games.’’

Both losses are huge for the Kings. Richards had been on a scoring
tear of late and leads the Kings with 11 goals this season. Mitchell is a talented stay-at-home defenseman and a significant part of the penalty-kill unit.

The two injuries led to another lineup shakeup in practice Friday, in
advance of Saturday afternoon’s home game against the Montreal Canadiens.

On the first line, Dustin Brown moved back to right wing to skate with
center Anze Kopitar and left winger Simon Gagne. Dustin Penner, who is expected to be activated from injured reserve after missing nine games with a hand injury, skated on the second line with center Jarret Stoll and right winger Justin Williams.

Murray said his fourth line would be center Colin Fraser with wingers
Kyle Clifford and Ethan Moreau, meaning a likely fourth line of center Andrei Loktionov with wingers Brad Richardson and Kevin Westgarth.

On defense, Drew Doughty will remain paired with Rob Scuderi. Jack
Johnson will pair with Slava Voynov and Matt Greene will pair with Davis Drewiske, who has played only one game this season.

``Guys just have to play,’’ Murray said. ``There’s no magic to that
formula. There’s an opportunity that opens up for some players to get back into the lineup. Other guys just need to take on a little bit more of a workload, especially on Mitchell’s side of it. He’s a big penalty-killer for us. He’s a really good penalty killer, and other guys are going to get an opportunity.

``It’s a good thing to see, not the fact that you’ve got players
injured but it’s good for other players to get put into situations that give them an opportunity to improve their game, to contribute to the team. Because as you get to the deeper part of the season, inevitably there is a call to duty in those situations. So they’ve been there, they know what to do and they react in the right way.’’

Jonathan Bernier is expected to start in goal.


Bergenheim faced no supplemental discipline from the league for his
hit on Richards, and both Lombardi and Murray said they didn’t feel the hit was dirty. Lombardi, though, did not like the reaction of the on-ice officials to the hit and to the subsequent calling of the penalties.

After the hit, and an ensuing push-and-shove scrum, Bergenheim got
only a two-minute roughing minor. Richards got roughing and slashing minors and Stoll, who joined the fray after Bergenheim appeared to throw a post-hit elbow, got a roughing penalty. The Kings then had to kill a double-minor penalty.

``When that scenario ends up in a four-minute power play, I think
that’s a real problem,’’ Lombardi said. ``That’s part of the culture of our sport, everything we try to instill, and to have to be subjected to a four-minute penalty kill on that basis, I really struggle with that. And that’s a bigger issue, as to the culture of our game, and not specifically.’’

Drewiske’s return to the lineup has been a long time coming. Drewiske
has played in only one game this season and has been a healthy scratch for the other 24. That’s a ton of conditioning skating, and a lot of nights spent in the press box or in a suite, watching games in a suit.

Drewiske appeared in 38 games last season, so he’s a bit accustomed to
being a part-time player, and to his immense credit, he has maintained a positive attitude throughout his time on the sideline.

``First of all, you just try to be a good pro and work hard every
day,’’ Drewiske said. ``I think the real battle is mentally staying connected to the game and everything that’s going on, when you’ve been out for a while. But I definitely try to watch the game pretty intently and focus on what guys are doing, where the mistakes are. I think that’s a good way to keep yourself in touch with what’s going on.’’

When the Kings put Richards on the injured-reserve list tomorrow, they
are expected to activate Penner, who has been out since Nov. 10 with a hand injury.

``Penner is ready to go, yes,’’ Murray said. ``And I’m certain of
that. As far as health-wise and skating, he’s in the best condition that he’s been since he’s been an L.A. King. He’s been through three weeks of hard work, and he has poured a lot into it. He’s skating very well, and that is the demands that I will put on him.’’

It’s been a season of fits and starts for Penner, who has zero goals
and two assists in 14 games. Penner suffered a groin injury during training camp and then, after a month of action, suffered the hand injury.

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