Willie Mitchell returns to Staples Center on Tuesday to play for the first time since the Stanley Cup Final, and the Kings have some festivities planned to mark the occasion.
A team official said Mitchell, who signed a two-year contract with the Florida Panthers in July, will be recognized with a PA announcement and a short video montage on the scoreboard early in the first period. But the ceremony Mitchell is most anticipating will take place about two hours before the puck drop when he is presented with his championship ring.
“I guess it’s closure for me on that journey,” said Mitchell, who played on two NHL champions in Los Angeles. “You go through everything, through the grind of putting yourself out there . . . and when you get your ring it’s like the last part of the journey.
“I kind of know what [the ring] looks like but it’s still nice to get that in your hands.”
Mitchell, one of the more popular Kings with fans and teammates, said the team contacted him earlier this year and gave him the choice of receiving the ring in person or in the mail.
“It was a real kind gesture,” he said. “That speaks to the class they deal with. I appreciate that and respect that.”
Drew Doughty, whose locker had been next to Mitchell’s at the Kings’ El Segundo practice rink, said he’s looking forward to visiting with his former teammate but promised it will be all business when the whistle blows.
“I miss him, of course,” Doughty said. “He was always able to put a smile on my face. Every day there was something new he came in with that just made me laugh.
“But obviously the No. 1 thing is we want to beat him. And we have to beat him. So that’s how it goes.”
Coach Darryl Sutter shuffled his lines again during Monday’s practice, continuing his search for combinations that click after watching the Kings go two games without an even-strength goal.
“We need more production from the top guys. That’s clear,” he said.
Sutter expects to keep center Anze Kopitar and right wing Marian Gaborik together but everything else is subject to change.
“It’s an ebb and flow always,” Sutter said, referring to left wing Tanner Pearson, who had seven goals in his first eight games but has only an assist in his last 10.
“That is not working right now,” Sutter said. “So you’ve got to move guys around. That’s the way it is.”
Defenseman Alec Martinez didn’t take the ice Monday after undergoing surgery on a finger Friday. The Kings have updated Martinez’s timetable to return, however, saying he could be back Saturday.
On the air: TV: Fox Sports West; Radio: 790.
Etc.: The Kings are coming off an emotional overtime win over the Ducks but haven’t won consecutive games in more than three weeks. Florida is also coming off a win against the Ducks, one in which the Panthers scored six times, the most goals they’ve had in a game since March.