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Martinez nears college town, and degree, in return to Ohio

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
COLUMBUS -- Alec Martinez is making his mark on the NHL, having been a lineup regular for the Kings for the better part of the past three months.


On Wednesday, Martinez got a chance to return to the area in which he first made his mark. Martinez spent three seasons playing at the University of Miami, Ohio, which is about two hours away from where the Kings were set to play the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Martinez was a fourth-round draft pick of the Kings in 2007, then left school after the following year and cracked the KIngs' lineup after two full seasons in the AHL.

``It's cool to come back here,'' Martinez said after Wednesday's morning skate. ``Going to school there, I watched a lot of Blue Jackets games. I know a few people around here in Columbus, so it's somewhat of a homecoming.''

Martinez still has ties to the area and the school. At his parents' insistence, Martinez continues to work toward his degree, taking summer and online courses.

``I'm pretty close. I'm about a semester away now,'' Martinez said. ``I'll get it eventually. I promised my parents I would, so I have to.

``I'm an accounting major. A lot of people find it boring. I don't know, I guess it is kind of boring, but it's all right. Everyone always needs an accountant. They have a pretty good business school, and I hated finance, so that was kind of my only option.''

Rookie defenseman Alec Martinez will play in his 37th consecutive game tonight in Columbus, OH, just two hours away from where he played in college for the Miami Redhawks.
The way things are going at the moment, Martinez will be able to use those accounting skills to manage his NHL salary for a long time to come. Called up in late November, Martinez hasn't been out of the lineup since, playing in 36 consecutive games.

A strong puck-moving defenseman with good defensive-zone instincts as well, Martinez is averaging more than 16 minutes per game in a pairing with Matt Greene.

``I'm just trying to get better every day,'' Martinez said. ``I'm watching the other guys, a lot of the older guys. I can learn a lot from them, both on and off the ice. So I just observe when I can, learn when I can and try to get better every day. It sounds cliche, but that's the best way to go about it.''

WORKING TOWARD SCORING
Dustin Brown was recently moved into a new role, on a line with center Andrei Loktionov and left winger Kyle Clifford, and the Kings would like to see Brown's scoring increase.

Entering Wednesday, Brown ranked third on the team with 18 goals but had only one goal in his previous 15 games.

``When you get into this time of the year, you need to try to get your balanced scoring going,'' coach Terry Murray said, ``whether it's from the back end or all the lines, with everybody contributing. It will come for Brownie. I think his intensity, his emotional connection to every game is going to allow him to create some opportunities, either individually or through the line attacking together.

``So it is a frustrating time for him right now, and moving him from one line to another is never an easy task, either, for a player. But that sometimes works, and hopefully it starts to click for him soon.''

UNDER PRESSURE
The Chicago Blackhawks made the surprising and sad announcement Wednesday that coach Joel Quenneville had been hospitalized and was in stable condition.

Quenneville's particular ailment was not immediately disclosed, but Quenneville has suffered from fatigue-related issues in the past, and today, Murray was asked about how he deals with the stress of coaching at a high level.

Murray enjoys golf but doesn't play during the season, he said, instead preferring to use workouts and bike riding to ease some of the job-related stress.

``I know Joel went through a stress-related problem a few years ago, when he was over in Europe coaching Team Canada,'' Murray said. ``Do I know what it feels like? Sure I do. It's been 30-some years of it now. It's hard. It's hard to win when you're supposed to win. That's probably the hardest thing there is in sports. When you're in that position, and you know you've got to get the job done and get to the Finals, and everybody is expecting you to get there or repeat, I have spent a lot of sleepless nights. You're up until 2 in the morning sometimes, looking at your computer trying to figure things out.

``You've got to find some ways to get away from the game, too. You've got to spend time with your family. You've got to work out. You've got to just try hard to train yourself to break away, emotionally and mentally, even if it's just for that evening. Those are maybe not the right answers, but that's just something you have to train yourself to do.''

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