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Morning Skate: Greene Good to Go

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Matt Greene will play tonight, despite missing most of practice yesterday with tightness in his back.

The Kings caught a break Thursday morning when defenseman Matt Greene, who missed practice a day earlier with a sore back, was able to complete the morning skate.

After the skate, Greene said that his back is feeling better and that he will play tonight against the Detroit Red Wings at STAPLES Center in an important conference game.

The Red Wings enter the game in, for them, an unfamiliar spot in January: out of the playoff picture. Detroit enters the game with 48 points, five points behind Vancouver, the Kings and Nashville, all of whom are in a virtual tie for sixth place in the West.

Detroit is expected to regain the services of previously injured forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary. The presence of Greene, a big-bodied defenseman, could be important against an always-potent Red Wings attack.

The Kings will be without Davis Drewiske, who suffered a shoulder injury in Monday's game at San Jose, so there was plenty of concern when Greene had to leave practice early Wednesday, but Greene said he felt "good'' Thursday morning.

"I'll play tonight. That's about it,'' Greene said. "My back was just a little bit sore yesterday. It kind of got a little uncomfortable on the ice, and I couldn't really move too well, so I just got off and got a good treatment day. I got some more treatment this morning and hopefully some more tonight, so I'll be ready to go tonight.''

Greene said he couldn't pinpoint exactly when the injury took place, although he said he started feeling back discomfort during the San Jose game. Both Greene and coach Terry Murray credited the Kings' training/medical staff for getting Greene up and moving.

"I got treatment on our day off [Wednesday], and I was feeling a lot better that night,'' Greene said. "Then I slept and I got up in the morning and it just didn't feel right. Then, getting on the ice, it didn't really loosen up the way I thought it would, so that was it. But today feels better. I did some more stuff, more treatment on it.

"Kinger [trainer Chris Kingsley] did a good job, and I felt a lot better. Completely different today, compared to yesterday, in the movement and how I was feeling.''

Alec Martinez, called up Wednesday after it was determined that Drewiske could miss approximately two weeks, is expected to replace Drewiske in the lineup tonight.

Randy Jones, out since a Dec. 15 collision with Edmonton's Dustin Penner, seems to be progressing well and, according to Murray, has a chance to play when the Kings host St. Louis on Saturday night.

Jones had been suffering from headaches, dizziness and neck pain at various times since mid-December, but has been participating in all practices of late without feeling symptoms.

"He's real close,'' Murray said. "He's going to get hard work today and tomorrow, then we'll make a decision for the next game. He's going to be that close. ... That's good news on Jones. He's really feeling very good, and excited about the way things went for him yesterday.''

Not very often, in the second half of a season, has there been a game between the Kings and Detroit in which the Kings are higher in the standings than the Red Wings.

But that's the situation tonight, as the Kings sit five points ahead of the Red Wings, who are in ninth place in the conference.

The Red Wings are expected to regain the services of previously injured forwards Dan Cleary and Henrik Zetterberg tonight, but the Kings remain in the unusual position of defending a playoff spot against the Red Wings, last season's Stanley Cup finalists.

"It hasn't happened for any team in the league over the last 15 years very often,'' Murray said. "They've been a great team for a long period of time. We respect the fact that they've had a lot of key injuries, top players out of the lineup. It's tough, sometimes, to get it to where you want it to be.

"I know they've got a couple guys coming back in tonight, so we just have to make sure that we're ready to play our game. That's the most important thing for me.''

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