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Six years later, Blake reclaims captain’s role

Special to The Times

LONDON -- Becoming the first Grover Cleveland of Kings captains since Wayne Gretzky, Rob Blake began a separate, second term at the honor Friday night, the announcement coming at a party for Kings fans at the O2 Arena. The 37-year-old defenseman previously served as captain for the five seasons beginning in 1996-97 and concluding in 2000-01.

After Blake was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in 2001, Mattias Norstrom served as Kings captain. Norstrom is now with the Dallas Stars.

Michael Cammalleri, Scott Thornton and Lubomir Visnovsky will be alternate captains.

Coach Marc Crawford said he’d wait until today to decide whether Jonathan Bernier would start the season in goal. “I’m leaning toward the guy who’s earned it,” he said before playfully ignoring a question as to which.

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“He’s a remarkable young guy,” Crawford said of 19-year-old Bernier, but acknowledged Bernier’s status was “maybe aided by the fact we didn’t have a great training camp for goaltenders.”

Defenseman Jack Johnson starts his first full Kings season at age 20, fresh off a summer spent shoring up his University of Michigan dossier with two psychology classes, including “an independent study with a 15-page paper,” and a “boring lecture class,” he said.

“Just chipping away trying to get credits, just trying to get that degree,” from which he’s about 1 1/2 years away.

Crawford compared Johnson to an early Chris Chelios, saying he has “the ability to skate, the ability to read, the ability to bring pucks to the inside.”

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Of the Kings and Ducks, Crawford explained to any Londoners who might be wondering, “We’re intra-city rivals and we really don’t like each other.”

The Kings sent defenseman Jon Klemm to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, bringing the roster to 24.

The league limit is 23 and must be reached by Oct. 2.


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