Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  By L.A. TIMES  |  Last updated 9/8/13
Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury and needed a second procedure to correct problems related to his first surgery, said Sunday hes ready to go full speed ahead when training camp begins this week. No tiptoeing into this. Ive been scrimmaging with the guys, practicing, doing everything full steam and business as usual, Mitchell said Sunday during the clubs Fan Fest event at Staples Center. Players are scheduled to report to the teams El Segundo practice facility for physicals on Wednesday and take to the ice on Thursday. Mitchell said that the physical exam will be his final hurdle but that he expects to be cleared to return to the ice and plans to play without a brace. Losing Mitchells physical presence last season was a blow to the Kings, though they compensated well by acquiring Robyn Regehr from Buffalo. However, the departure of Rob Scuderi via free agency in July left another huge hole that could be ably filled by the return of a healthy Mitchell, who underwent platelet-rich plasma therapy a treatment used by Lakers star Kobe Bryant to help promote his recovery. Everyone knows where Im at now. Im doing good, Mitchell said. Ive been skating since around the middle of June. I was pretty slow then, just kind of casually, but starting to feel the ice. I was skating three, four times a week and Ive been skating since then. Im ready to go. As recently as mid-June, Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said he considered Mitchells injury to be potentially career-threatening. A few days after Lombardi expressed doubts about Mitchells return, the 36-year-old defenseman used his Twitter account (@Willie_Mitch33) to post a video showing himself skating at El Segundo. I just wanted people to know, dont count me out, Mitchell said, adding that he had heard questions about whether he would be able to return. Im sure you guys doubted Id be standing here today, he said to the reporters assembled around him, and Im sure theres a lot of people who doubted Id be back and back with my teammates, and I used that all summer as my motivation to do the tedious work that rehab is, and get to the point where Im back. Mitchell said Lombardi likely didnt know the full extent of his injury mainly because he didnt know the extent himself. Ive had a lot of conversations with Dean. Anyone who knows Dean, he likes to have conversations and hes around the office 247 so thats lots of conversations, Mitchell said, smiling. I think hes no different than me. Hes really happy and excited. I know that. I think hes a little more excited this time because I think in the past I tried to come back and he was excited and thought I was going to be there and then the knee would blow up. Early in the summer he was cautiously optimistic. Id say now hes more optimistic and happy to see me out there scrimmaging and doing those things that Id normally do. Dean wants to win. I understand that. I want to win. I think when youre on the other side of the fence as a general manager, coach, etc., you want to push your players as much as you can. If someones on the line or something like that, sometimes maybe you feel like you need to push a little bit to get him over the line to get him out. I think maybe at that point in time Dean didnt understand the significance of what was going on and even myself, for that matter, as far as the inflammation in my knee and all that. So I think after I went in and went out and saw the doctors I did see, and having another procedure after seeing those doctors, I think that gave him some significance as to why I wasnt able to be there and give him a little bit more understanding with that. And now its business as usual. -Helene Elliott Lombardi was asked during a question-and-answer session with fans why he signed free-agent defenseman Jeff Schultz to a one-year, 700,000 contract if Mitchell is able to play. Lombardi said it was a reasonably priced depth move, no matter Mitchells status. I look at defense like good pitching you can never have enough, Lombardi said. And our motivation comes from internal competition. Coach Darryl Sutter compared Schultz to Scuderi. We think he fits in with our group and were going to give him every opportunity to play, Sutter said. --Helene Elliott
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