A good day turned into an excellent one for Kings defenseman Alec Martinez on Wednesday.
First, he suffered no ill effects from his return to the lineup Tuesday night against Boston after being sidelined because of an injured finger. Then he practiced Wednesday without any issues and several hours later signed a six-year, $24-million contract extension.
The deal carries an annual average value of $4 million, and he became the second Kings defenseman to sign a long-term deal since the season started, joining Jake Muzzin. He signed a five-year, $20-million contract extension in October.
Next, Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi presumably will turn his attention to his talented young forwards, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, because both would become restricted free agents after this season.
Taking care of Martinez was an important early priority. Of late, his absence was keenly felt as more minutes were piled on defenseman Drew Doughty’s already heavy workload. The Kings defense has been stretched thin because of Slava Voynov’s indefinite NHL suspension.
Martinez, 27, scored a career-high 11 goals and 22 points last season and followed that with six playoff goals, two of which were franchise highlights. He had the overtime winner in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final against Chicago and the Stanley Cup clinching goal against the New York Rangers in Game 5.
The finger injury, which required surgery, forced Martinez to miss seven games. He played 19 minutes against the Bruins and said the early signs were mostly positive.
“I thought I did some good things and there were some other things that I need to tighten up,” Martinez said after practice. “Sometimes there is no other way to replicate a game situation than just to play in a game. I’ve got some areas to improve on. But that will come.”
Said Kings Coach Darryl Sutter: “We’ve seen that lots where the first game back from some time off … that first game is usually that adrenaline-push game and then you’ve got to be careful you don’t take a step back.”
Martinez has formed a successful partnership with Robyn Regehr, who has an intense edge and an often penetrating stare. Martinez joked about that and passed along a funny story about playing against him when Regehr was in Calgary.
“He’s a little bit different with us, a little less scary you would say, around us,” Martinez said. “I know what you’re talking about. My second game in the league and he suckered me right in the jaw in Calgary.
“I was just some young kid and I had to punch him back. I was like, ‘Holy crap, that’s Robyn Regehr and did I just really punch him?’ ”
Injured Marian Gaborik practiced Wednesday but Sutter indicated the right wing was unlikely to play or travel to Arizona with the team for Thursday’s game.
Gaborik said he suffered an upper-body injury late in last week’s game at Nashville and has missed two games. He said it was similar to a previous injury but on “the other side” of his body.
“I just try to get it to a point where I can go out there and play,” Gaborik said. “So, it should be pretty soon.”
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Etc.: Goaltender Mike Smith is scheduled to start for the Coyotes. Smith, who won 38 games in the 2011-12 season, has struggled so far, going 5-12-2.