Los Angeles Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell has been dealing with a lingering knee injury since initially undergoing surgery on it during the offseason. The uncertainty looming around his return became a little more clear on Tuesday, when ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reported that Mitchell will miss the remainder of the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
The Kings have been forced to play a much younger and more inexperienced group of defenseman in his absence, but the team did acquire 32-year-old Robyn Regehr from the Buffalo Sabres on Monday in order to try and fill the void left by Mitchell. Regehr recorded six hits, two blocked shots, and a plus-2 defensive rating in Thursday’s 3-0 shutout win over the Minnesota Wild, his first as a member of the Kings. He also picked up an assist on forward Justin Williams’ second-period goal.
Mitchell had 24 points (5 goals, 19 assists) and a plus-20 defensive rating in 76 games last season, and was a big part of the stellar defense and penalty killing during the Kings' run to the 2012 Stanley Cup title.
Mitchell's leadership and experience on the back end has been missed this season, but it has also given some younger players a chance to play and prove their abilities. Rookie blueliner Jake Muzzin has made the most of his opportunity, posting 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists) and a plus-13 defensive rating in 32 games. Muzzin was recently selected as the NHL's rookie of the month for March, when he totaled 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) and a plus-10 rating in 17 games.
Defenseman Matt Greene, who is also dealing with a long-term injury (back), may return in time for the start of the 2013 postseason, should the Kings remain in a playoff spot.
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