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Martinez makes an immediate impact in return

by Curtis Zupke

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – It was difficult not to notice Alec Martinez when he stepped on the ice for an optional skate Sunday.

The sombrero gave him away, for starters. He also wore a green jersey and a red sock and white sock in a presumed homage to the Mexican flag on Cinco de Mayo. A few cheers went up from the sparse crowd.

"We obviously had a little fun with that in the locker room," said Martinez, who actually has Spanish heritage on his grandfather's side. "If you can't laugh at yourself, I don't think you can't laugh at all. We had fun with it but it was back to work once we were on the ice."

Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he bought the sombrero at liquor store in the morning, and Martinez gave the line of the day when told about his coach's, um, shopping habits.

"Liquor store at nine in the morning, huh?" Martinez said. "I didn't think they were open then."

Martinez was quite noticeable in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals as well, his first game action in a month. He created an odd-man rush on his first shot and assisted on the lone goal in a 1-0 win against the St. Louis Blues when he hacked at the puck in a big scrum. Not bad for being thrown into a Stanley Cup Playoff game, let alone a series with the physicality of Kings-Blues.

"I worked hard the past month to keep myself ready. I don't think it's easy to do that," Martinez said. "I felt a little rusty but it's playoff hockey and every guy wants to play in these games. If you're having a hard time getting up for a playoff game, you've got bigger problems."

Sutter said Martinez was "fine and got up the ice and made plays and moved pucks" in his first game since April 2. Martinez was bumped out of the lineup largely because of the emergence of Jake Muzzin and Keaton Ellerby, the return of Matt Greene and the addition of Robyn Regehr.

But Sutter went with seven defensemen in Game 3 so he could rotate players on the fourth-line wing spot and infuse the back end with energy.

"Our fourth line hasn't been playing much and our fourth-line right wing has hardly played at all," Sutter said. "I just thought we'd give maybe Jeff Carter and Dustin Brown and Justin Williams a couple more minutes, which gets them away from matchups and it worked last night. It gives our defense some energy."

That meant mixing up the defensive pairings, which were previously consistent. Sutter broke up Rob Scuderi and Slava Voynov and also Drew Doughty and Regehr on occasion.

"I think it was a challenge for all of us," Doughty said. "Some guys weren't getting many minutes. Some guys kind of lost their rhythm, probably, because they were sitting on the bench for a little while. But I think it worked out well. I was playing with a lot of different partners, which I enjoyed."

Game 4 is Monday and the Kings need a win in order to avoid their first elimination situation of the 2013 playoff.

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