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Kings’ Mitchell (knee) medically cleared, but hesitant to return — is Sutter annoyed?

Jan 24, 2013, 1:32 PM EDT

Darryl Sutter, Willie Mitchell Getty Images

On Wednesday, LA Kings head coach Darryl Sutter delivered a message to defenseman Willie Mitchell, who’s been cleared to play after lockout knee surgery.

“You know what, he’s got doctor’s clearance,” Sutter told the LA Times. “He’s got trainers’ clearance. Coaches want him to clear himself.

“So do it.”

Is that terseness or bluntness from the bench boss?

Hard to say.

It’s clear Sutter’s none too pleased about his team’s start. The Kings looked flat in a 5-2 loss to Chicago in their home opener, then blew a third period lead in Colorado — prior to that, the Kings went 86-0-9 in 95 games when leading after 40 minutes — to start the season 0-2.

Along the way, he lost the services of defenseman Matt Greene (back) and was forced to give Jake Muzzin (15:23) and Davis Drewiske (10:23) serious minutes against the Avs.

That said, Sutter is a veteran coach and knows it’s far too early to panic.

He’s also been a straight-shooter throughout his career, and this may have been an instance of him simply telling it like it is.

As for Mitchell — well, this isn’t the first time he’s been overly cautious about returning from injury. He suffered a concussion while playing in Vancouver and, after recovering, reflected on the pressure and stress he felt about returning to the ice.

“Everywhere I’d walk: ‘How’s your head? How’s your head?” Mitchell told the Times back in January 2012. “That’s the last thing I wanted to talk about. I just wanted to disconnect from that.

“So that’s what I did. I went to my place in the middle of nowhere in the forest and just chilled.”

While he’s not living in wooded isolation this time around, Mitchell says he’ll still be coming back on his terms.

“I don’t want to get out there and be a liability to my defense partner, to my teammates, to my coach,” he said. “When I come back I don’t want to come back, play the next couple of games and then [the knee] swells up and be out.”

  1. davebabychreturns - Jan 24, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    Don’t forget Mitchell’s cracked vertebrae way back in 2008, I believe Alain Vigneault suggested to the media that Mitchell could be playing and that it was just a matter of playing with pain.

    At the end of the day Willie plays when he feels comfortable, and until then he is headstrong enough to resist pressure from coaches and the media.

    Good for him.

    • kitshky - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:39 PM

      I completely agree with you, but can’t bring myself to thumb that comment up haha.

      Totally believe it’s up to the player and absolutely love Mitchell, but sometimes …come on son.

  2. elvispocomo - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    I’d suspect if he feels close, he’ll be back for the Kings/Nucks game on Sunday. If not, then who knows.

  3. qauzaq - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    Only he knows when he’s ready but I do hope that it’s soon!

  4. cardsandbluesforever - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    this makes me wonder if there isnt something similar going on with Quick. he had major surgery in the off season on what is normally a career ending injury for goalies. with what we’re hearing out of mitchell i wonder if quick was pressured into playing when he’s not 100%. it would explain a lot considering Quick was the guy who put up a brick wall against just about every team he faced the last half of the season, and now he’s averaged 4 goals against the couple games hes played, got blown out by chicago and couldnt stop a weak colorado offense.
    i guess sutter is finding out you cant flog your players like a rented mule 24-7 and expect them to stay healthy. you would think he learned that lesson when he coached the blackhawks….

  5. nykingfan - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    Quick’s surgery was not career threatening.
    He didn’t play well in the opener, but he looked like himself in the Avalanche game.

    • ron05342 - Jan 24, 2013 at 7:56 PM

      The main reason he didn’t look good in the opener (I was there) was because the Kings played like sh*t in front of him. None of the five goals were bad goals.

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