It's getting to be routine for defenseman Drew Doughty to play 30 minutes a game.
The absence of Slava Voynov (suspended) and Alec Martinez (finger surgery) has contributed to pushing Doughty's average ice time up to 28 minutes and 58 seconds, slightly behind NHL leader Ryan Suter of Minnesota. Doughty, who played a season-high 33:07 in the Kings' loss to Dallas on Saturday, loves every moment of it.
"I feel like offensively, I've been getting chances like crazy lately. I'm just not scoring. I still feel like I'm playing well," he said Monday after the Kings practiced at Bridgestone Arena in advance of Tuesday's game against the Nashville Predators. "I don't feel like I'm slower or not doing as much as I had when I was playing 25 minutes.
"You would have a little more energy the less you play, but at the same time I like to be out there as much as possible."
But even Doughty acknowledged he would be better off if he cut the duration of his shifts. He averaged one minute per shift at Dallas, too long even for him to be consistently effective.
"Last game I had a few bad breaks," he said, citing a full, two-minute penalty-killing shift and other long stretches on the ice. "I think my shift average was around a minute, which isn't a good thing. I like to be around 50 seconds for my shift average, so I won't be playing that much next game, I don't think."
Coach Darryl Sutter said Doughty got caught in situations against Dallas where he couldn't get off the ice, but Sutter was unapologetic about playing the 24-year-old defenseman so much.
"He's going to play 30 minutes. I don't want to keep saying it, but that's where we are," Sutter said. "When you're down in the game, I like to have Drew Doughty in the game if you're trying to get some offense. Basically, the third period we played in their zone the whole time. He was on the ice a lot."
With Voynov still suspended and Martinez not expected back before Saturday's home game against Chicago, Doughty will continue to play a lot —but maybe in shorter bursts.
The Kings' 1-4-3 road record has become a concern to players. Defenseman Jake Muzzin said there's no time like the present for the Kings to improve it.
"We've gotten off to some slow starts on the road, and it's kind of bit us in the bum, really," he said. "We battled back at Dallas, but being down 3-0 is tough to come back from.
"We've got to focus on coming out with a big first period [Tuesday] and set the tone early."
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Although Martinez isn't ready to return, the Kings aren't expected to make any personnel moves to shore up their defense. They have the salary cap space to add a player since they were permitted to put suspended Voynov on long-term injury status. The Predators, 7-1-1 at home this season, didn't practice Monday.