LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jonathan Quick stood at the edge of the rink and looked up at the Staples Center roof. Several large banners were rolled up tight against the rafters, just waiting to be unfurled.
Although the new ice was chilly, the Los Angeles Kings goalie warmed up at the sight.
"It'll be good to see those," Quick said. "And then we can finally put it out of our minds and get back to work."
The Kings raised the Stanley Cup for the first time last summer, ending 45 years of frustration. Thanks to the NHL lockout, they still haven't been able to raise their first championship banner.
The Kings are eager for that celebration, which is all but certain to be next Saturday, Jan. 19, after the lockout formally ends. They're also ready to get back to work on defending their title — and with their entire roster returning intact from last season's eighth-seeded championship team, they believe they're in prime position to do it.
"It's been a long haul to get back here, but we all just want to get back out there and get back to playing," Kings forward Jarret Stoll said. "It's fun just to be in here. It feels like we're right back to last season."
While the entire NHL struggles to persuade its fans to return to the rinks over the next few months, the Kings are less worried than most teams about repairing the damage from the four-month lockout. After all, the Stanley Cup and a championship banner can soothe an awful lot of hurt feelings — and the Kings are all but certain every home game this season will be a sellout.
"We've had great support throughout the summer and the whole offseason," said Luc Robitaille, the Hall of Fame forward and the Kings' president of business operations. "Our fans just want to come back. That's all we've heard the whole time: 'When can we come see the banners?'"
Stoll, Matt Greene and the Kings' Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie joined coach Darryl Sutter, general manager Dean Lombardi and the rest of the Kings' brass Thursday to announce a million-dollar charity donation and a major team sponsorship agreement with McDonald's.
They're still not formally back to work until the players ratify the labor deal, but the Kings have already begun thinking about the challenges of getting back to the playoffs and winning it all again on a tight, 48-game schedule. Sutter coached the Chicago Blackhawks during the NHL's last shortened season in 1995, so he knows its particular challenges.
"Dean did a great job of keeping the whole team together," Sutter said. "To know that we have the whole team again is pretty cool ... but there's a huge toll it takes on the players in a short season, and there's a reload factor there. I think the strength of our team is our depth and our character, so we're going to keep to that."
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