SAN JOSE >> Devin Setoguchi’s homecoming Wednesday was a very big deal. He played his first NHL game in nearly two years in a familiar place in front of plenty of familiar faces. Twenty friends and family members jammed a rented luxury suite at SAP Center to watch his return.
Drinking and depression short-circuited his career, but he roared back and made his Kings debut in their season-opening game against the San Jose Sharks. Setoguchi arrived at training camp on a pro tryout after playing last season in Davos, Switzerland.
Wednesday, he played left wing on the Kings’ top line, filling a void created when Marian Gaborik was injured while playing for Team Europe last month in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. Gaborik is expected to be sidelined until Thanksgiving because of a broken right foot.
Setoguchi earned his spot in the Kings’ opening-night lineup with his speed and determination. He must continue to perform if he expects to keep it. His contract pays $575,000 with the Kings, but only $45,000 if he’s demoted to the Ontario Reign of the AHL.
“I have to take my situation, where I am, and do the best I can and not put too much pressure on myself and stick to what I know best and what I do best and try to have a good hockey game,” Setoguchi said of playing his first NHL game since Nov. 22, 2014, while with the Calgary Flames.
Certainly, he found his comfort zone in making his return in San Jose, where he scored career bests of 31 goals and 65 points in 2008-09 with the Sharks, and followed it up with seasons of 20 and 22 goals before his production began to slide. He also played with Minnesota and Winnipeg.
“It means a lot,” he said of returning to San Jose. “It’s the place where I started my career. It was an organization that took me in, so it means a lot. For myself, it’s a stamp on the year. It’s a start I need to have and continue to get better and work at it.”
The Kings announced a list of four replacement announcers to fill in this season when Hall of Fame play-by-play man Bob Miller isn’t working. Miller plans to work a reduced schedule of 58 games in 2016-17, after undergoing heart bypass surgery last season.
Gary Thorne will work eight games alongside analyst Jim Fox. Chris Cuthbert and Ralph Strangis will work four games each, and Jiggs McDonald will work one. McDonald was the Kings’ first broadcaster, starting with their inaugural 1967-68 season.
FACTS AND FIGURES
The Kings’ projected salary-cap hit going into opening night was $70,870,227, according to the website generalfanager.com. They had $2,129,773 in cap space after making several moves in order to sign Setoguchi to a one-season, two-way contract.
The Kings placed Gaborik on injured reserve last month and his salary of $4.875 million this season didn’t count against their opening-night salary-cap hit. They’re also on the hook for only $175,000 of defenseman Rob Scuderi’s $1.125 million salary after sending him to Ontario.