2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final – Game Six

Mitchell’s health a wild card for Kings


Los Angeles Kings day on PHT continues with a look at a player who may or may not be on the ice in 2013-14…

There were times last season when Kings head coach Darryl Sutter sounded extremely frustrated at Willie Mitchell’s hesitancy to return from a knee injury that required offseason surgery.

“You know what, he’s got doctor’s clearance,” Sutter said in January. “He’s got trainers’ clearance. Coaches want him to clear himself.

“So do it.”

But Mitchell never did return in 2013. The defensive defenseman’s absence, among other things, forced Drew Doughty to play more of a shutdown role for the Kings, perhaps hindering the latter’s offensive production.

In June, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi provided a cautious update on Mitchell’s status for 2013-14.

“I guess it’s safe to say that he’s at least making progress,” said Lombardi, per LA Kings Insider, “but the problem is it’s the same progress he made before, and until we get to those final stages, you’re not going to know for sure.

“So, if you had asked me this maybe six months ago when we went through the process the first time, I would have been encouraged. But, given that we had two setbacks once he got to a certain point, I’m certainly not as optimistic as I would have been before.

“Your guess is as good as mine right now.”

While Lombardi did acquire (and re-sign) veteran Robyn Regehr, the Kings will be hoping hard that Mitchell is able to play, and play well, again. The 36-year-old was a big part of the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2012. In fact, only Doughty averaged more ice time in those playoffs than Mitchell (25:19).

Los Angeles also lost stay-at-home defenseman Rob Scuderi to free agency in July.

Mitchell has one year remaining on his contract ($3.5 million cap hit) before he can become an unrestricted free agent.

Bruins list Chara on IR, for now

Zdeno Chara
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Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.

It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.

The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.

As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.

Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?

The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.

This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.

Kassian suspended without pay, placed in Stage 2 of Substance Abuse Program

Anaheim Ducks v Vancouver Canucks
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Zack Kassian may have avoided major injuries stemming from his Sunday car accident, but it likely sent the signal that he may need help.

The response: he was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA on Monday.

According to the league’s release, Kassian “will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”

Speaking of being suspended without pay, here’s a key detail:

The 24-year-old ended up with a broken nose and broken foot from that accident. The 2015-16 season was set to be his first campaign in the Montreal Canadiens organization after a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks.

Kassian spoke of becoming more mature heading to Montreal, but the Canadiens were critical of his actions, wondering how many wake-up calls someone can get.

In case you’re wondering about the difference between stage one and two: