EL SEGUNDO, CA — In this space on September 14, I reported that defenseman Alec Martinez, one of the Los Angeles Kings’ defensemen who could be the odd man out once the 2013-14 National Hockey League regular season begins due to the Kings’ current surplus of players on their blue line, indicated that he is not worrying about his shaky situation.
“You’ve just got to focus on your own game,” said Martinez. “Get your own game in order so that you’re playing well, and let the chips fall where they may.”
“If you think about [the possibility of not making the opening night roster] too much, it can get the best of you,” added Martinez. “So you just focus on your game, and try to play as well as you can.”
Although it might make for a more compelling story if the defensemen who are on the bubble exhibited more angst regarding their immediate future, it bodes well for the Kings that they do not appear to be consumed by that kind of stress, as evidenced by Keaton Ellerby, who is also one of those defensemen who could find himself on the outside looking in when the season begins.
“[Having to win a roster spot is] part of the game,” said the 6-5, 221-pound native of Strathmore, Alberta. “You’ve got to be mentally strong, and persevere through whatever ups and downs that are thrown your way. I’m 24 years old, so I hope I’ve got a long career ahead of me.”
“You’re always battling for a spot,” added Ellerby. “I think it [takes] a lot of perseverance, working hard, and doing what the coaches expect of you. If you do that, and do it day in, and day out, you’ll get your opportunities, and when you get those opportunities, you just have to take advantage of them, and do your best.”
“I’m just trying to go out there, work hard, do what the coaches ask me to do, and just play my game. Nothing’s ever given to you, so you’ve got to work through it, and do the best you can, day in, and day out.”
Ellerby has spent a considerable amount of time trying to improve his game and deliver on expectations.
“[They want me to be] be a big, physical, good defensively, penalty-killing d-man,” he said. “Get back, move pucks up quickly, don’t slow it down, just get the puck into the hands of the forwards as fast as possible, and keep the puck out of our net. I think, in the two [pre-season] games I’ve played in, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that, so far. I just have to keep building on that, keep working with the coaches, and keep working hard.”
“In five-on-five play, [I need to] be a hard-nosed, physical defenseman who doesn’t get scored on, and contributes offensively, when possible,” he added. “If I do those things, if keep working at them, and if I keep getting better, I think I’ll be all right.”
Head coach Darryl Sutter indicated that he has seen some improvement in Ellerby’s game since last season.
“Keaton’s played really well for us,” said Sutter. “He did a good job training this summer. He’s had some jump in his game. We like the way he’s played.”
Ellerby credited the coaching staff for helping him with his game. He also indicated that penalty-killing will be a major focus for him.
“I’ve talked with the coaches already this year, and last year, I worked a lot with the coaching staff,” he said. “My game is being a defensive guy—killing penalties, just not letting the opposition score. Just excelling at those things—[assistant coach John Stevens and I] have talked a lot about penalty-killing being a huge part of my game, going forward, so I’ve just got to work on that, [watch] a lot of video with him, and make that a staple of my game.”
Although Ellerby is focused on his own game, he’s also a human being. As such, thoughts about his immediate future do creep into his mind. But like Martinez, if those thoughts are causing any sleepless nights, he is not showing it.
“You see it, you think about it, but you can’t let it affect you,” he emphasized. “You’ve just got to play your game, and do what you’ve got to do to win a spot in the lineup.”
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Keaton Ellerby (4:26)
Nick Shore (1:26)
2013 Training Camp Video Interviews – September 22, 2013, via FrozenRoyaltyNHL on YouTube
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