EL SEGUNDO, CA — With the pre-season finally over, the Los Angeles Kings put in their first post-training camp practice session on Monday, at their practice facility in El Segundo, California.
Veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell noted that the team still isn’t quite where they want to be before opening the new season in Minnesota on October 3.
“There’s lots of work to do, yet,” said Mitchell. “We’re working on a few things. A few teams get started before us, so we’re just looking forward to it, jumping right in. It’s a back-to-back.”
“Preparation is going to start now for what we need to do on [Thursday],” added Mitchell. “I’m just trying to get my mind in the right place, and get ready to go.”
After a 15-month layoff due to two surgical procedures on his knee that caused him to miss the entire 2013 season, getting ready to go involves more than just his knee.
“To be honest, everyone asks about [his knee],” he lamented. “I’m just kind of tired of answering it. It is the situation, but…it’s business as usual now, for me. I’m past all those hurdles. I played a back-to-back in Las Vegas, and everything was fine. I just have to continue to work on my game, try to be a better teammate, do the things that I know I’m capable of, and the things that are within my strengths.”
Despite taking a shot off his ankle on Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche, Mitchell came through the back-to-back pre-season games in Las Vegas just fine.
“It was excellent,” he noted. “I think I needed that challenge after everything I’ve been through, and I think for the team as well. [Head coach] Darryl [Sutter] stressed that early on. I think he said we have 14 back-to-backs, something crazy like that.”
“We’re going to have to be a good hockey team on those back-to-backs if we’re going to do what we want, and that’s to win the division, so we get home ice for the second season,” he added. “That’s our focus.”
Oh…about that ankle…
“It wasn’t as bad as it [felt] at the time,” said Mitchell. “I didn’t get a lot of swelling, so it’s good. It’s the ankle. All hockey players have taken one there.”
“It hurts for a little bit,” added Mitchell. “But then, like anything else, you get used to it, you start skating on it, you get the blood moving—no limitations at all. It’s all good.”
“I told the players, ‘there’s a lot of things you miss from the game of hockey when you’re out 15 months. But getting one of those off the ankle where you don’t have any padding is not one of’em, I’ll tell you that.’”
Scrivens Shrugged Off Competition
Although it seemed that veteran goaltender Mathieu Garon was a bit of a long shot to wrest the backup goalie position away from Ben Scrivens, who was acquired with Matt Frattin from the Toronto Maple Leafs this past summer in the deal that sent netminder Jonathan Bernier to Toronto, the situation did create competition, and that may have been the plan all along.
In any case, Scrivens used the motivation to win the battle, earning the number two goaltender spot.
“To get to this point in your career, you have to earn your [roster] spots,” said Scrivens. “A little kid goes through it while trying to make [recreational] teams, and top teams in club organizations. It doesn’t change once you get older. You’re always fighting for a spot.”
“There’s sixty spots in the league [for goaltenders], and they’re highly coveted,” added Scrivens. “Everyone wants one, so I’m extremely fortunate and grateful that I’m here. I’m an LA King now.”
Was Scrivens surprised when he found out that Garon had been invited to the Kings’ training camp on a professional tryout agreement?
“I don’t remember exactly when I heard, but it’s not like I didn’t expect there to be competition,” he noted. “If it wasn’t [Garon], who’s a good, veteran guy, it [would be] from Martin Jones, and J.F. Berube—young guys who are pushing for spots, so there’s always competition. There’s always someone trying to take your spot. You’ve got to battle for it. That’s the life of playing hockey.”
Although it would be logical to conclude that Garon’s presence in camp might be a distraction, or a cause of added pressure, Scrivens did not let the situation bother him.
“All that stuff is out of my control,” he emphasized. “I try not to worry about too much of that stuff. I was fortunate, in the early part of my career, that I was put in a lot of situations that tested my mettle in that regard.”
“Maybe things haven’t gone exactly the way you wanted them to, or thought they should’ve gone, but in the end, all you can do is focus on your job on the ice, and that’s stopping pucks,” he added. “The more you let stuff creep into your sub-conscious, and get into your head a little bit, it’s detrimental to your performance on the ice.”
Scrivens play during pre-season games showed that he did not let the situation affect him.
“He got better in every [pre-season] game,” said Sutter. “We tried, with the goaltenders—it was basically a three-man deal with seven games to play. To get your big guy ready, we wanted to give Jonathan Quick eight periods, which we did, and we wanted to make sure the goaltenders got equal opportunity to play for the second spot.”
Garon was released from his professional tryout agreement on September 29, one day after the Kings’ 3-2 loss to the Avalanche.
In that game, Scrivens got the start, allowing just one goal on 18 shots in 32:10 of ice time.
Garon came on just past the midway point of the second period, but gave up two goals off of rebounds in his first 3:56 of action, likely sealing his fate before the game ended.
“Scrivens got better as camp went on, and outplayed Garon,” Sutter noted. “Simple.”
Scrivens indicated that the competition with Garon did not factor into his play against the Avalanche.
“You always want to play at the highest level you think you’re capable of,” said Scrivens. “A lot of the time, those decisions are out of your control. Coaches decide who they want on their team. All you can do is try to stop the puck out there. If you take care of your end of the bargain, a lot of times, good things will come for you, and that’s my approach—stop as many pucks as I can in practice and in games.”
“Before, when I was trying to make teams, you want to make it difficult for the coaching staff to make the decision to send you down,” added Scrivens. “Hopefully, I’ve made it an easy decision to keep me around.”
“Now, the real work begins. You’ve got to come to work, each and every day, and try to get better, and try to help the team. I don’t want to say the easy part is done. There’s going to be a lot of hard work this season, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Video Interview With Ben Scrivens via FrozenRoyaltyNHL on YouTube
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