Keys to the Kings-Blackhawks Western Conference finals series (Part 2)

Depth is always a question for the Kings, who rely so heavily on the exceptional playmaking of center Anze Kopitar, who has a playoffs-leading 19 points in 14 games, and winger Marian Gaborik, who has a playoff-leading nine goals. Forward Trevor Lewis and defenseman Alec Martinez have chipped in timely goals, however. The Blackhawks would figure to have an edge in this department. But the Kings continue to impress with their resourceful play during the postseason.

Injuries are a concern for both teams. Defenseman Willie Mitchell did not play in the second round against the Ducks and his participation is uncertain for the series against the Blackhawks, although he has returned to the practice rink. Defenseman Robyn Regehr was injured in Game 1 against the Ducks and his not resumed skating. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville ruled out playing injured forward Andrew Shaw in Game 1, but said he could be back sooner rather than later.

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What went wrong for the Kings in their Game 5 loss to the Ducks? Everything

Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin lost an edge, fell down in the corner and lost the puck to Daniel Winnike of the Ducks, who fed it to Nick Bonino, who shot it through a screen set by Drew Doughty and past Jonathan Quick. Doughty and Quick are teammates. That first-period goal was only the first of a string of Kings mistakes that led to Ducks goals. Now, the Kings are on the brink of elimination.

A second-period penalty by Justin Williams, a hooking call roughly 180 feet from his own net, led to a power-play goal for the Ducks’ Devante Smith-Pelly. A poor break-out pass by Alec Martinez ended up on the stick of Ducks’ center Ryan Getzlaf, who slipped it ahead to Smith-Pelly, who beat Jonathan Quick on a breakaway. Another poor clearing pass by the Kings landed on the stick of Andrew Cogliano. Quick stopped his shot from the slot, but Jakob Silfverberg chipped home the rebound.

It was a disastrous second period and the Kings could not rally from 4-1 down. The question is can they rally from a 3-2 deficit in the series? They must clean up their act, which they did in coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the first round against the San Jose Sharks. The Ducks are a different animal, though.

Game 6 is Wednesday at Staples Center.

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Kings defenseman Alec Martinez talks about his kick save and a beauty Saturday

Kings defenseman Alec Martinez scored a power-play goal in the first period Saturday in Game 1, delivered several punishing checks and made the save of the game when he stuck up his leg to bail out an out-of-position goaltender Jonathan Quick and deny the Ducks’ Corey Perry in the opening minutes of sudden-death OT.

“I guess I channeled my inner goalie, playing in the driveway when I was younger,” a smiling Martinez said. “I just tried to get in front of it. I knew Quick had just made a save and was trying to get over, so I just tried to get down and get in front of it.”

Martinez was asked who is was that he was channeling.

“Growing up in Detroit, I guess Chris Osgood was around,” he said of the former Red Wings netminder, “and Patrick Roy obviously was one of the best.”

Martinez laughed when it was pointed out that he was playing both sides of a very intense rivalry between Osgood of the Red Wings and Roy of the Colorado Avalanche during the mid- to late-1990s.

“I was a kid,” he said. “I had a good excuse.”

Fair enough.

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Increased expectations mean playoff-clinching win is no big deal for Kings

Here’s Kings captain Dustin Brown’s reaction to the Stanley Cup playoff-clinching victory Wednesday over the Phoenix Coyotes: “With the evolution of this team, maybe four or five years ago, this was a big deal. Now, it’s just part of the process. It’s good to get it out of the way and get our game going. There’s nothing to celebrate about making the playoffs. It’s not a goal, it’s an expectation.”

The usually empty Kings’ dressing room was emptier than usual after their 4-0 rout of the Coyotes sent them to the postseason for the fifth consecutive season. Brown was the only player at his locker stall when reporters were granted access to the dressing room. Alec Martinez was later summoned from the off-limits area and he spoke along the same lines as Brown, saying it was a bigger deal to play well.

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Will the Kings have a new look for Thursday’s game against the Coyotes?

Coach Darryl Sutter shuffled his lines, mixing and matching his players for Wednesday’s practice. Whether he sticks with it is anyone’s guess. He made some significant changes for last week’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a 5-1 loss, but stayed with it for all of one shift. “We’re trying ‘Marty’ on left wing and would like Jeff at center during some practices to stay sharp,” Sutter said, referring to defenseman Alec Martinez and right wing Jeff Carter. “One line was a power-play line, so that’s what you can read into it.”

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Kings coach Darryl Sutter shuffles his lineup for game against the Stars

Kings coac Darryl Sutter made a couple of minor tweaks to the lineup for Saturday’s game against the Dallas Stars at Staples Center, scratching ineffective forward Matt Frattin and defenseman Alec Martinez. Colin Fraser replaced Frattin and Jake Muzzin took Martinez’s spot in the defense crops.

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Kings and free agent defenseman Alec Martinez agree on a new contract

The Kings and defenseman Alec Martinez agreed to a new two-season, $2.2-million contract, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing later this month. The website for the Canadian sports network TSN first reported the agreement late Sunday night. Martinez, 25, played in 27 of 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

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Trevor Lewis and three other Kings free agents elect salary arbitration

Restricted free agents Trevor Lewis, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin and Jordan Nolan elected salary arbitration Wednesday, an attempt to solve contract impasses with the Kings. They are four of 21 players league-wide who elected to go this route. Teams also can take players to arbitration in order to settle disputes. The deadline is Thursday at 2 p.m. (PDT). The ruling of the arbitrator is final. Hearings are scheduled for July 22 through Aug. 6 in Toronto. Lewis, Martinez, Muzzin and Nolan became free agents July 5.

 

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Kings’ Darryl Sutter explains decision to dress seven D-men in Game 3

Given the Kings’ offensive struggles, Darryl Sutter raised a few eyebrows by dressing seven defensemen, instead of the usual six, for Game 3. He offered an explanation Sunday for adding Alec Martinez to the defense corps for Saturday’s game.

“Fourth line hasn’t been playing much and our fourth-line right wing has played hardly at all,” Sutter said, referring to Jordan Nolan. “So, I thought I’d give Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams a couple of more minutes. It gets us away from matchups. It worked (Saturday) night. Gives us more energy.”

Plus, by playing Martinez for the first time since April 2 against the Phoenix Coyotes, Sutter kept penalty-killing specialist Keaton Ellerby in the lineup. Ellerby helped the Kings to deny the Blues on four power play chances during Game 3.

“It gives our defense some energy, and obviously Keaton, you take Keaton out and you’re losing a guy who’s a really good penalty killer for us, and we didn’t want to do that,” Sutter added when asked about adding a seventh defenseman

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