Alec Martinez a stalwart as Kings' depth on defense is tested

Alec Martinez a stalwart as Kings' depth on defense is tested
Kings defenseman Alec Martinez, fighting for position with Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw in the playoffs last spring, has become a leader on the decimated back line for L.A. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The cover boy was trying his best to uncover as many copies as possible of a national sports magazine.

Kings defenseman Alec Martinez wanted to get Sports Illustrated as a keepsake for family members and friends, something he could give out later when he had his day with the Stanley Cup.

It took a couple of hours of search time on the road around his home in the South Bay, the regional edition of the magazine capturing a photo of Martinez's Stanley Cup-winning goal in double overtime against the New York Rangers in June. He eventually scored big at a grocery store.

"I was going to CVS, Barnes & Noble," Martinez said. "I found about five at Barnes & Noble, cleared them out. I found the mother lode at Ralphs. They had like 35 of them. I bought them all.

"I felt like such a loser buying them all."

Martinez is as hugely self-deprecating as he is talented.

Not only did he score the Cup-clinching goal, but also he had the series-winning goal in Game 7 of the Western Conference final against Chicago … with a little help from the body of then Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy, who deflected the puck past goalie Corey Crawford.

Martinez was sharing memories of his treasure hunt during training camp, when the biggest question was how the Kings were going to deal with the loss of veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell, who signed as a free agent in Florida in July.


Since then, the Kings' defense has faced challenge after challenge. There have been several injuries, including to Martinez (who had finger surgery), an indefinite suspension to Slava Voynov and now another significant injury as steady veteran Robyn Regehr (hand) was placed on injured reserve Friday.


Regehr was hurt blocking a shot in Thursday's 6-4 win over the St. Louis Blues. Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said during practice Friday that Regehr could be out two to three weeks.


At least the Kings have the sufficient amount of salary-cap space — this time — to recall defenseman Jeff Schultz from their American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, N.H.


Schultz, who appeared in seven playoff games for the Kings in the 2014 run to the Stanley Cup, would have been the natural call-up the last time Regehr was injured in November. But they were mired in salary-cap limbo and Schultz made too much money. The Kings played with five defensemen in one game and then scrambled to sign Jamie McBain to the minimum, cap-friendly $550,000.


"Any time you lose a guy, it's pretty difficult," Martinez said Friday. "Everybody has to step up their game a little bit to help compensate for that loss. Not one guy is going to be able to do it.

"It happens. I'm confident in our D-corps. We've got a lot of depth."

That depth will be tested once more.

The value Martinez holds, among other qualities, is that he can play both the right and left sides effectively. That's one of the reasons the 27-year-old was signed to a six-year contract extension worth $24 million earlier this month.

"Marty's been pretty solid," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. "Even last night with Robyn going down, he [Martinez] plays both sides and that, to me, it is not easy to do.

"Even last night, he was a little bit off in some of the checking stuff. Some of the detail we have in our game. It's probably more related to that than anything.

"I told him today, he's got to get his left-handed scoop shovel out again."

Sutter went on to praise the work ethic of Martinez, not just on game days but in practice too. It seems as if it's light years since Martinez was buried deep in the Sutter's doghouse. A little more than a year ago, Martinez was an inexplicable healthy scratch.

"It makes you stronger. When you go through adversity you can tap it into — not the same type of adversity — having gone through it before and pulling out of it," Martinez said.

His teammates have noticed his progress in the last couple of years, a natural cycle of development coming with experience on the big stage. Martinez has three goals and 11 points and is a plus-11 on the plus-minus scale.

"A lot of it with Marty — his first few years were tentative, partially, as a young guy is generally tentative, fighting for a spot," Kings captain Dustin Brown said.

"It's hard to make this team. Now it's more about his confidence level. He's always had the ability and the hockey sense. He's had everything before."

Brown said that one thing about Martinez stands out.

"His first pass is always very good; always seems to be making the right play," he said. "His numbers are steadily improving. . . . It's almost like the less you notice him [defensively], the better he's playing. But you do notice him because he's producing on the offensive side."



When: 1 p.m. PST.

On the air: TV: Fox Sports West; Radio: 790.

Etc. A late scoring change after Thursday's game gave Kings center Anze Kopitar a fifth point in the win over St. Louis, a career game high in points for Kopitar. He had one goal and four assists. . . . It was uncertain whether Arizona forward Martin Hanzal would get to Los Angeles for the Saturday afternoon game. On Friday, Hanzal's wife delivered a baby daughter named Natalia.

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