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Training Camp Report (Oct. 1)

by Recap Provided By / Los Angeles Kings
Jake Muzzin has earned a spot on the Kings roster.

EL SEGUNDO -- Jake Muzzin’s fortunes have improved considerably in 12 months.

A year ago, Muzzin was starting his fourth and final season as a defenseman with the junior-level Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League, having been passed over by all 30 NHL teams in the seven-round draft that summer.

On Friday, Muzzin’s turnaround became complete with the Kings assigned Thomas Hickey to Manchester of the AHL, essentially giving Muzzin a spot on the NHL roster.

The Kings are now down to seven healthy defensemen in camp, the number at which they intend to start the season, and it seems likely that Muzzin will be in the lineup with the Kings face Vancouver in the season opener on Oct. 9.

Just who Muzzin’s partner will be -- Davis Drewiske or Peter Harrold -- remains a question, but the 21-year-old defenseman isn’t worried about that at the moment.

"It was a little bit of a surprise this morning," Muzzin said. "I thought me and Hicks would both make the trip to Vegas, but I've just got to continue working on my game, continue to listening to the older guys and the coaches and continue building."

The Kings also put winger John Zeiler on waivers, and will assign him to Manchester if he clears on Saturday. Like Zeiler, Hickey had a strong training camp but got caught in a numbers game, and will be considered as a possible captain in Manchester.

With defensemen Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell, Jack Johnson and Rob Scuderi set, and Drewiske and Harrold seemingly assured spots -- and with Matt Greene out, recovering from shoulder surgery -- the competition for the past few days had been between the two rookies, Hickey and Muzzin.

Hickey’s path has been more traditional. Drafted No. 4 overall by the Kings in 2007, Hickey has gone through the minors but has been often set back by injuries.

Muzzin has had a long, winding road. Muzzin had major back surgery early in his junior career and was drafted in the fifth round by Pittsburgh in 2007. The Penguins didn’t sign Muzzin, though, and when he re-entered the draft in 2009, he did not get selected.

Muzzin, though, had a breakthrough year with the Greyhounds last season and was named the top defenseman in the OHL. By that point, he was already Kings property -- he signed a contract in January -- and Muzzin had a strong impression on management during a playoff run with Manchester after his junior season ended.

Listed at 6-foot-3, 213 pounds, Muzzin has the ability to play a two-way game and is expected to see time with the Kings’ second power-play unit early in the season.

"He's obviously got size," Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said. "He has shown that he can make a play. He's developing some physical things. So it's been good, but like I say, he's been fast-tracked, to go from junior to where you're looking at him thinking, `Wow, he might be a little closer than we thought.' Does that mean he's ready, or that type of thing? You've just got to let him play."

As the last defenseman cut from training camp, Hickey came close to making an NHL roster for the first time in his career.

Lombardi said that Hickey expressed expected disappointment at the news of the roster move, but that Hickey was sent to Manchester with specific instructions.

"He's disappointed," Lombardi said. "The next step is, he sits down with {assistant coach) John Stevens and they looked at video. John went over the clips and said, `This is what has to improve, and these are the four things you've got to do to get better.' So he's got his game plan and he can get going."

With the training-camp roster dwindling further, most players will be on the ice when the Kings play the Colorado Avalanche in Las Vegas on Saturday night at MGM Grand.

The Kings will skate with their normal top three lines, with Anze Kopitar centering Ryan Smyth and Dustin Brown, with Jarret Stoll centering Brad Richardson and Justin Williams and with Michal Handzus centering Alexei Ponikarovsky and Wayne Simmonds.

On the fourth line, Trevor Lewis will center Rich Clune and Kevin Westgarth. The other forwards who are contending for roster spots -- Andrei Loktionov, Brayden Schenn and Kyle Clifford -- are expected to play in Sunday’s game.

On defense in Las Vegas, it will be Doughty, Mitchell, Johnson, Scuderi, Drewiske and Harrold, and Jonathan Quick is slated to play the entire game in goal.

Scott Parse (groin) is still off the ice and will not play in this weekend’s games.

"He hasn't skated," coach Terry Murray said. "I know he did some slide-board work yesterday, off ice, and felt a little bit of tenderness. It's inflammation only. That has been looked at, and checked out, by our team doctors. It's a matter of that starting to calm down, with rest and medication and treatments."

The Kings play the Colorado Avalanche at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday at 6 p.m. The game can be heard on 1150-AM and affiliates.
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