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
The Kings played almost all of the lockout-shortened season without veteran defensemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell. Greene could be back soon after undergoing back surgery after playing one game. Mitchell is out for the duration after undergoing two knee surgeries. Their absence created a void and young players Keaton Ellerby and Jake Muzzin filled in capably, giving the Kings the sort of boost they needed to stay competitive.
Conventional wisdom suggested the Kings might be in serious trouble after veteran defensemen Matt Greene (back surgery) and Willie Mitchell (knee surgery) were injured. After all, they were huge factors in the Kings’ run to the Stanley Cup championship last spring. Who would replace them? How would they measure up?
Drew Doughty played on a World Junior championship team with Canada in 2008, a gold medal-winning team in the 2010 Olympics and a Stanley Cup title team with the Kings in 2012. He also was a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman in 2010.
Is he ready for a new role as a mentor to the Kings’ Kiddie Korps on the blue line?