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Old 09-11-2007, 07:54 PM   #100
Bronx33
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Default Kings, Cloutier eye fresh start

http://www.presstelegram.com/sports/ci_6857763

For Dan Cloutier, the beginning of training camp was long awaited.

The Kings goalie has been wishing for the new season to come along so he could put the last two - both cut short by injury - in the past.

"It was a long and frustrating rehab process," said Cloutier, who had surgery on his hip in December. "Whenever you have to rehab that long, you're just looking forward to the next training camp."

A premier goaltender in Vancouver before missing most of the 2005-06 season with a knee injury, Cloutier was brought to the Kings last year to shore up the position.

Instead, he allowed 3.98 goals in 24 games played, up from a career average of 2.75 goals against, and the lack of a dependable goalie was a key reason for the team's fourth-place finish in the Pacific Division.

Cloutier said he knew in the first week of the season that he had done severe damage to the hip.

Every time he went into his stance, he would feel bone dig into bone.

"If you're a goalie and you're a second or two late, you can't really compete at that level," Cloutier said. "That's what I found.

I wasn't playing very good. I was getting beat every night on saves that I should make."
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Cloutier admitted to being stubborn for not having the surgery earlier and said his desire to play after missing most of the previous season played a part.

Entering training camp, he said he is feeling close to 100-percent physically but will need time to get back the reaction time and instincts that made him so good in Vancouver.

"Health-wise, I'm there," Cloutier said. "It's everything else.

It's getting out there and playing, the speed of the game with traffic. Those are the things you lose. You don't necessarily lose guys coming down the wing and shooting. You lose all the little things, tips and battling around the crease."

Cloutier enters training camp in a battle with Jason LaBarbera and newcomer Jean-Sebastien Aubin for time at goalie. He wants to be the starter in the regular-season opener, though he admits it could be a while before he returns to his top form.

"I don't know how long it's going to take but I guarantee I'll work as hard as I can to get there," Cloutier said.

Blake back

Another player returning from a hip surgery is defenseman Rob Blake.

Blake practiced Monday but said it will be a few months before he is fully recovered.

"You try to do as much as you can on it," Blake said. "As far as structurally, you're not going to do any more damage. The stiffness will be there for a few months but that's nothing we can't overcome."

Blake said he plans to play a few of the exhibition games to make sure the hip is recovered to the point that it won't hinder him on the ice.
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