VANCOUVER -- Defenseman Alec Martinez has been medically cleared to return to the Los Angeles Kings lineup, according to coach Darryl Sutter.
But whether or not he cracks a roster that has won five straight games and seven of the past eight remains to be seen. Sutter certainly hinted it wasn’t guaranteed, even though Martinez was one of the six defensemen to play every game of the Kings’ Stanley Cup Championship run last summer.
“He’s not getting in just for what he did,” Sutter said of Martinez, who hasn’t played since Feb. 11 and took part in his first full practice Friday. “He’s got to beat somebody out. So when that happens, if it’s based on other guy’s performance, [it's] not that big a deal.”
There haven't been a lot of bad performances from the Kings of late, leading many to compare them to last year’s Cup-winning squad. The biggest difference, Sutter noted, was on defense, where they’ve been forced to use several new players after getting through the entire 2012 playoffs with the same six. This season, their blue line has been without Willie Mitchell, who was injured before training camp, and Matt Greene, who went down in the first game of the season and hasn't returned.
“Actually we played six defensemen for about 50 games last year, which is a rare thing,” Sutter said. “I guarantee you it never happens again. We’ve had to put three and four kids in now, three that never played a game for us in the playoffs. There was this thing about, 'Oh they brought all their team back,’ but that wasn’t really true.”
In order to make room for Martinez on their roster, the Kings assigned Andrew Campbell to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League.
Here’s how the rest of the Kings lineup will look against the Canucks, with Jonathan Quick getting the start in goal after backup Jonathan Bernier won his fourth straight -- and fourth start in eight games -- Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings:
Dustin Brown – Anze Kopitar – Justin Williams
Trevor Lewis – Mike Richards – Jeff Carter
Dwight King – Jarret Stoll – Dustin Penner
Kyle Clifford – Colin Fraser – Jordan Nolan
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Rob Scuderi – Slava Voynov
Keaton Ellerby or Alec Martinez – Davis Drewiske
Injured: Willie Mitchell (knee), Matt Greene (back)
Scratched: Alex Martinez or Keaton Ellerby