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December 18, 2011 1:45 pm

Mitchell `absolutely’ ready; Quick gets the nod

Willie Mitchell has missed five of the past six games with a groin injury, but barring any last-minute setbacks, it appears as though Mitchell will return tomorrow against Toronto. Based on practice today, it would seem that Mitchell will replace Alec Martinez, with Slava Voynov as the other spare defenseman. Asked about Mitchell’s ability to play tomorrow, interim coach John Stevens said, “Indications are very positive. I’ll get a chance to talk to Kinger [trainer Chris Kingsley] here and make that final decision, but I would say he’s probable.’’ Mitchell was more forceful when asked if he was ready to play.

MITCHELL: “Absolutely. Real ready. I just want to get back in there. It’s never fun watching when the team is doing well. … It’s never fun being hurt. It’s a lot easier when things are going well around here. There’s been a lot of change and obviously a lot of losses, so you want to get in there. We’re all competitors and feel we can make a difference, so I just want to get in and hopefully help out in my own little way, and we’ll get going, hopefully get this on track.’’

In goal, Stevens will stay with Jonathan Quick, who was pulled from last night’s game in Detroit after the Red Wings scored three goals on their first seven shots, in less than nine minutes. Jonathan Bernier played the rest of the game and allowed five goals. Quick had not been pulled from a game this season.

STEVENS: “If things had gone well the other night (against Detroit), and we had either won the game or had a chance to win the game, he would have played the whole game and we would have considered Bernie for (tomorrow), but the fact that (Quick) got out of the game early, and the game ended up the way it did, Johnny is a leader on this team, he’s our No. 1 goalie and he’s going to go back in the net for tomorrow.’’

As for Mike Richards, he practiced for a second consecutive day and appeared to ramp up the intensity. Richards started practice doing line rushes with wingers, but then put on a no-contact jersey when battle drills started. Richards has been out since he took a hit to the head on Dec. 1 against Florida.

STEVENS: “Just progressing along. I don’t think anything has changed there. He looked a lot better physically. He had that first day back on the ice, getting his legs back under him in Detroit. It’s tough to push his conditioning a little bit, but I thought he looked really good today, from a conditioning standpoint. He had good jump, made a lot of plays. So it’s encouraging.’’

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