EL SEGUNDO, CA — After learning that right wing Justin Williams’ eye injury was already on the mend and that he would recover fully, media turned much of their focus on the play of defenseman Alec Martinez, who has played well despite moving to the right side.
But what made almost as much news was that head coach Darryl Sutter was rather effusive with praise for Martinez.
Normally, Sutter is more than reticent to offer praise for an individual player, always emphasizing that it takes more than one player for the team to be successful.
But things were different on November 5, for one day, anyway. Indeed, Sutter praised Martinez’ contributions as he fills in on the right side while the Kings are without defenseman Slava Voynov.
“I think Marty was a big reason that we were a playoff team last year when we moved him [to the right side],” said Sutter. “We didn’t have anybody who we could move to the right side. We needed a third guy, and we lost Keaton [Ellerby] on waivers. All we had to play the right side—the only two guys were Drew [Doughty] and Slava.”
“I told Marty, ‘you’re going to play the right side,’ and that’s when he was sort of in and out of the lineup,” added Sutter. “He just went to the right side and away he went.”
“It was hard for him, a big adjustment, and we still talk to him and reinforce different spots on the ice where it’s a switch for [him]. You see a lot of plays differently, especially defending, or when your partner gives you the puck. It’s a whole different angle.”
As Sutter indicated, Martinez is still adjusting to playing the right side. But he is giving the Kings solid minutes despite being out of his natural position.
“Did I expect any more of him? No,” Sutter explained. “But the bottom line is Drew and him on the right side, they’re going to pack up all the minutes in there. [We’re] thankful that we have a player like that who can do that because you can go between Robyn [Regehr] and Greener (Matt Greene) and not miss a beat, and that gives those guys that speed complement, too.”
Although moving to the other side of the ice has been an adjustment, Martinez stressed that his game has not changed.
“I don’t think really anything changes for me,” said Martinez. “Things are going to happen throughout the year where you lose guys for certain reasons. Everyone’s got to step up, and for me it’s been some added minutes and playing on a different side with Reg [Regehr]. For me, my mindset doesn’t really change.”
“I think I know what I’m good at, and what my game is,” added Martinez. “If I try to be something other than that, I’d probably get myself in trouble.”
Martinez also noted that although he is a mobile, offensive defenseman, he has to be able to play a physical game when called for. But that’s no different from anyone else on the team.
“In terms of physicality, it’s no secret that everyone has to be physical on our team, the way we play,” said Martinez. “Darryl harps on that, and talks about shooters and checkers. It doesn’t matter what role you have on the team. You’re going to have to be both, at some point, either during a stretch, or during a particular play in one game.”
Switching gears, Martinez was also asked about his team’s play on the last road trip, which they ended with a poor 1-3-1 record, their only win coming in the last game of the trip at Dallas on November 4.
During that road trip, Sutter told the media that his team was actually playing better than they did during the previous home stand in which they won six straight games.
“I’d agree with that,” said Martinez. “I think there were a few games we had on that home stand that [goaltender Jonathan Quick] really bailed us out.”
“There are a few games there where we weren’t really satisfied with the way that we were playing,” added Martinez. “Sometimes Darryl talks about output being more important than outcome. Obviously, we were getting the outcome there, but I don’t think that we were too happy with the output.”
As Martinez indicated, output was definitely more important than outcome during their 1-3-1 road trip.
“We had stretches on that road trip where we played some good hockey,” he said. “But we obviously were getting in penalty trouble and digging ourselves a hole in the beginning isn’t very suitable, especially on the road, for wins. But I thought that we had some good stretches in there.”
Could the win at Dallas could start the Kings back in the other direction?
“I think it was just a good road win,” said Martinez. “We just had to grind it out. Dallas is a really good hockey club. They were already one of the clubs that were pretty good last year and they got a lot better with the guys they picked up.”
“It’s just playing our game, sticking with it, playing 60 minutes of it and just grinding out a road win. We definitely needed that.”
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