Kings’ defensive depth goes under the microscope

He’s not the flashiest defenseman in the world, but Alec Martinez is an important player for the Los Angeles Kings.

That’s why his mysterious injury has been monitored so closely leading up to the Kings’ first-round series with the Sharks. Los Angeles may have Drew Doughty, but the blue-line depth beyond Doughty, Martinez and Jake Muzzin has been in question since Slava Voynov went back to Russia.

Per LA Kings Insider, Martinez is expected to play tonight in Game 1. At this morning’s skate, he was on the third pair with Rob Scuderi. The first pair was Doughty with Brayden McNabb; the second was Muzzin with Luke Schenn.

Martinez has not played since Apr. 2, so head coach Darryl Sutter may be taking a wait-and-see approach with the 28-year-old. It’s possible, if he looks good out there, that Martinez gets moved up to the second pairing with Muzzin. Those two played together for most of the regular season.

Again, Martinez isn’t the flashiest player, and this isn’t the flashiest story. But Kings GM Dean Lombardi is well-aware of the importance of depth on defense.

“Look at those teams that won in Chicago when we went to the conference finals,” Lombardi said, referring to the 2013 and 2014 postseasons. “They’re pretty much able to roll three sets, right? Three pairs. And that’s the way it was designed. And if you look at Chicago, and the year we beat ‘em, and the year they beat ‘us, they had the same thing. Right? Leddy was Martinez. Right down the frame, it was almost like a carbon copy. Keith, Doughty, Seabrook, Muzzin. It matched up entirely. Both teams could roll three sets. Chicago started getting hit last year. They lose Oduya. They’re doing the same thing. Funneling guys in, Keith has to play a lot of minutes just like Doughty has to play a lot of minutes.”

As for the Sharks, they might not have a Doughty, but you could argue they have the Kings beat in defensive depth. Per CSN Bay Area, here are San Jose’s expected pairings for tonight:

Marc-Edouard VlasicJustin Braun
Paul MartinBrent Burns
Brenden DillonRoman Polak

Related: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup

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