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Alec Martinez using veteran savvy to help develop Kings' young defensemen

Alec Martinez using veteran savvy to help develop Kings' young defensemen
Kings defenseman Alec Martinez skates during a game against the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 19. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

The gap between Alec Martinez and Matt Roy extended beyond the 40 feet of ice.

The defensemen were partnered in practice Monday, with the 31-year-old Martinez and his 539 games of experience passing the puck to the 24-year-old rookie, whose next game will be his ninth.

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But the two are separated by less than an hour drive from their respective Michigan roots.

“Roysie’s a good old Michigan boy,” Martinez said. “He’s got that going for him.”

The Kings will take any form of camaraderie on the blue line as they enter the final month of the season. They are playing defensemen prospects Roy, Sean Walker, Paul LaDue and Kurtis MacDermid to gauge the future, and they need veterans such as Martinez to guide those youngsters.

Martinez appeared closer to a return from an upper-body injury when he practiced, and coach Willie Desjardins said it was “probably 50-50” that Martinez would play Tuesday. Desjardins called Martinez “a big part of our group back there” and looks forward to regaining the leadership Martinez provides.

“There’s short routes and there’s hard routes,” Desjardins said. “He’s always a guy that takes the hard route. He’s always a guy that battles through. He gets back as quick as he can. He never cheats on his rehab. He sets a great example for our young guys.”

Martinez has sat out the last eight games because of an injury that Desjardins has said is not related to the one that sidelined him for 14 games in December and January. The Kings lost 10 consecutive games and are a combined 7-11-4 without Martinez, a shot-blocking specialist and one of their point men on the power play.

During his injury, Martinez stayed in touch with his teammates for support and encouragement.

“When you’re out, it’s not like you’re never around,” Martinez said. “I’m in the weight room with them, pretty much everywhere but the ice until the very end. That’s just part of being a good teammate. You’ve got to be there for guys during certain times. I like to think I do that a little bit.”

While sidelined, Martinez noticed Walker’s skating and offensive mentality, and the intimidation factor that the 6-foot-5, 233-pound MacDermid brings.

“He’s a scary dude,” Martinez said.

The long-term plan is for this blend of leaders and prospects to keep the team competitive during a rebuild, offseason moves outstanding. Desjardins was confident in what the Kings have now and what’s eventually coming, either through the draft, free agency or within their system. And he was confident in players buying into that belief.

“They do believe,” Desjardins said. “They believe they can play better. They see guys that are around the organization that have won. And you don’t change. They have the ability to win two Cups. That’s just doesn’t happen by itself. Those guys are good leaders. I think they know.”

Etc.

Austin Wagner is day-to-day because of an upper-body injury, Desjardins said, and probably won’t play Tuesday. Wagner collided with Gustav Forsling of the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday and did not practice. … Matt Luff was recalled and skated in Wagner’s spot at fourth-line right wing.

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Up next for Kings: vs. Montreal Canadiens

When: Tuesday, 7:30.

On the air: TV: FSW; Radio: iHeartRadio (LA Kings Audio Network)

Update: Montreal goalie Carey Price did not practice Monday because of flu, according to the Canadiens. Center Jesperi Kotkaniemi was tied for fifth among rookie scoring leaders through Sunday. Former Kings center Nate Thompson has one assist in 10 games with Montreal.

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