In the bigger picture the story remains the same: Willie Mitchell‘s health situation still earns wild card/“x-factor” labels.

Still if NHL.com’s latest story on the 36-year-old defenseman is any indication Mitchell and the Los Angeles Kings no longer seem to need counseling to cope with his complicated rehab from knee issues. More specifically GM Dean Lombardi claims that “Mitchell’s attitude has changed to enthusiastic as his progress has improved.”

Lombardi had nothing but praise for the defensive stalwart at least when he can get on the ice.

“When he is out there and I don’t think I’m out of line I think he’s one of the top-five most underrated players in the League” Lombardi said. “I think you’ve really got to know the game to appreciate him. We all appreciated him when we had him but boy there are subtleties in his game that you see night in and night out. It’s his stick and his positioning. He’s probably one of the top penalty killers in the League.”

Even without Mitchell in the fold the Kings’ defense is stacked with players so the addition of such a key presence could make their blueline corps downright crowded.