Ailing Willie Mitchell out of Kings’ lineup

Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell controls the puck along the boards against Senators winger Erik Condra during a game earlier this season at Staples Center.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

CHICAGO -- Defenseman Willie Mitchell won’t play for the Kings on Sunday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.

Coach Darryl Sutter said Mitchell is sick and stayed at the team’s hotel here instead of coming to the rink for the finale of this four-game trip. “Afternoon games are hard on those old guys,” Sutter said, jokingly.

Defenseman Matt Greene, activated last week after he recovered from an upper-body injury, was poised to replace Mitchell and play for the first time since Nov. 2


Mitchell had suffered an apparent upper-body injury in the first period of the Kings’ 5-2 victory at Ottawa on Saturday but returned for the second period before skipping the third. Sunday’s game will be the first he will have missed this season; he missed all of last season because of problems relating to knee surgery.

Sutter, who spent his NHL career with the Blackhawks and began his NHL coaching career here, said he always welcomes the chance to come back and visit.

“It’s nice to see a little bit of snow and stay downtown. I’ve seen a lot of Christmases and winters here over the years,” he said.

The Kings on Sunday will complete their sixth back-to-back sequence. They split the first two sets of back-to-back games but swept the next three, with the most recent being the victories at Montreal on Tuesday and at Toronto on Wednesday that launched this trip.

The Blackhawks were expected to start Antti Raanta in goal, less than 24 hours after he was pulled from a 7-3 loss at Toronto. Rookie Kent Simpson will be the backup. With Corey Crawford idled because of a groin injury, the Blackhawks last week acquired veteran goalie (and former King) Jason LaBarbera to fortify their goaltending depth. However, Coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday that LaBarbera could be “in the mix” to stay in Chicago.



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