Torrey Mitchell readily concedes that he probably won’t reach the 1,000-game milestone.
He’ll turn 33 next month and he’s at 626 games after more than 10 years in the NHL with a body that’s absorbed significant setbacks. So it’s doubtful he’ll have his praises sung the way teammates Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik did Thursday when their 1,000-game accomplishments converged.
But Mitchell proved there’s nothing wrong with being unsung.
He set up the tying goal on one of his three shifts in the third period. The stage lights fell uniquely on Brown and Gaborik, but Mitchell could identify with them.
“It’s not easy getting to that number,” Mitchell said. “I can attest to it.”
A role player for most of his career, Mitchell has persevered and would be closer to 1,000 games if not for a serious broken leg injury that wiped out what would have been his second NHL season, in 2008-09, with the San Jose Sharks. He missed more than 100 games and was out of action nearly a year.
Now with his fifth team, Mitchell has gained his footing with the Kings after the Nov. 23 trade from the Montreal Canadiens for a conditional fifth-round draft pick. He has four points in five games as the fourth-line center.
“He understands his role on the hockey team, which is a really important thing,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “Some guys don’t embrace their role. He does.”
Mitchell still makes his mark with speed, faceoff ability and penalty killing, and Stevens said his veteran approach rubs off on younger players. It’s a similar effect that Brown and Anze Kopitar have on rookie Alex Iafallo, and that Gaborik and Jussi Jokinen have with their linemates.
The fourth-line wingers have changed frequently but Mitchell has been a regular part of the lineup at center. For someone accustomed to new dressing rooms, he’s getting more comfortable in this one.
“I feel pretty good,” Mitchell said. “I feel confident and I feel like I’m settling in nicely.”
Saturday represents Mitchell’s first foray into the rivalry from the Kings’ side. San Jose drafted him in 2004, and its foundational players Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski remain.
“Super excited,” Mitchell said. “I’ll see how it goes. I’ve played against them quite a bit over the years, so that’s kind of behind me. But it will be a little weird.”
The Kings are in a one-for-13 slump on the power play and have only three man-advantage goals since Thanksgiving. Opportunities have been scarce — that slump spans seven games — but Stevens said he’s more concerned with them not shooting enough, if only to create a rebound or other chance.
“I’d like to see our overall execution improve,” Stevens said. “I’d like to see our mind-set change a little more to volume as opposed to one shot, one kill.”
AT SAN JOSE
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790.