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Training Camp Notebook (Sept. 30)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Kevin Westgarth is trying out a new helmet this fall while locking down a spot on the Kings fourth line.

EL SEGUNDO -- On the ice, they don’t look different than teammates, but closer inspection of the headgear of Willie Mitchell and Kevin Westgarth reveals that they’re trying something new.

Terry Murray Practice Interview | Kevin Westgarth Interview

During training camp, Mitchell and Westgarth have been testing the new "M11" helmet, designed by a company called Cascade, in partnership with Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier, with the hopes of reducing concussions and head injuries among players.

The company touts the helmet as one that "reduces direct energy transfer," with a streamlined design and a more secure fit for players. The crown of the helmet is raised slightly more than most, but otherwise there are no obvious visual differences.

Mitchell and Westgarth are the only two Kings to test them out this fall, in practices and preseason games. The issue hits closest to home for Mitchell, who has suffered three concussions in his NHL career, including one last season.

Mitchell rated his satisfaction level as "so-so" and said he hadn’t yet committed to wearing the new helmet once the regular season starts.

"They've done shock tests and stuff like that, and it's the next level for helmets," Mitchell said. "It's tough, because everyone has different beliefs on it. There's no perfect science for it. It's not peer-reviewed yet either. They [Cascade] put out their science and say, `This is best for shock and concussions' and all that.

"Then Bauer puts out theirs and Reebok puts out theirs, and it's all within points of each other. They've done their own, independent testing on it but no one has peer-reviewed it, so how do you gauge? I'm not sure on that."

Westgarth, the Kings’ designated "enforcer," had a much more positive overall review.

"I tried it and I loved it," Westgarth said. "From everything I hear, they're great for concussions, and it's nice because they tighten around your head, so it's a good, solid fit, real comfortable. I've been in three fights so far and it hasn't come off yet. Sometimes I like to get the hair out there, but I guess I'll take the punches off my helmet as opposed to off my head.

"You don't really notice it, minute to minute, but you do feel that it tightens the whole head, as opposed to front to back. So definitely it feels real snug and it feels good. You don't really notice it, and that's the idea."

Scott Parse (sore groin, sore toe) did not practice again Thursday, and coach Terry Murray said it’s doubtful that Parse will play in either of this weekend’s final preseason games, Saturday against Colorado in Las Vegas and Sunday at Anaheim.

Brad Richardson will take Parse’s place as the second-line left winger.

Matt Greene (shoulder) joined the Kings for a full-team practice for the first time, but remains in a red, non-contact jersey.

Greene has been expected to miss the first month of the season while recovering from mid-July surgery, and after practice said he had no estimate on his return.

"I have no clue right now," Greene said. "I think it's just about how this goes. This is kind of the test period, to get out there. Maybe you'll bump into a guy here or there, but no real full contact yet. We'll see how that goes, and if that goes well, it's whatever the trainers say. I don't want to say a date. It's just me guessing. They actually know what they're talking about."

Murray said the Kings would go with a "veteran" lineup when they play the Avalanche on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

The lineup is expected to include the regular top three lines -- those centered by Anze Kopitar, Jarret Stoll and Dustin Brown -- as well as the top two defensive pairings.

Jake Muzzin, in competition for a spot on defense, is expected to partner with Peter Harrold. Muzzin’s competition, Thomas Hickey, is expected to play on Sunday.

The fourth line remains a question. On Thursday, Murray had Westgarth playing with two rookies, center Brayden Schenn and left winger Kyle Clifford. Due to their age and experience, both rookies would have to return to junior hockey if they don’t make the NHL roster.

"With the young players still here -- Schenn, Loktionov -- I clearly want to use them while they're here," Murray said. "Clune, Zeiler and Lewis are here. I've got to play around with that and try to get the best looks that I possibly can. Clifford and Schenn are with Westgarth today. It's two young guys who are junior-eligible, and I'm giving them every look that I possibly can, to be in there and show the best that they can.

"It's a hard thing to deal with, with the number of players, but it's a nice situation to be in. It clearly says that we have a pretty good group of guys who are vying for spots."

The Kings are scheduled to practice at 10 a.m. Friday at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo.
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