It's understandable that Kings defenseman Alec Martinez was nervous in his NHL debut Saturday against Phoenix.
It's beyond comprehension why franchise defenseman Drew Doughty played the worst game of his NHL career and the team imploded in a season-opening 6-3 loss at Staples Center.
Coach Terry Murray said Sunday he might replace Martinez with Peter Harrold on Tuesday against San Jose because he didn't like the defense pairings and "passes that were bobbled and kind of end up being soft plays that were turnovers coming back at us." Or he might continue to mix the pairs, as he did in mid-game.
Fixing the other problems could be more difficult.
Murray on Sunday had players practice battling along the boards and generating offense in five-on-five situations. The Kings were one of the NHL's weakest five-on-five teams last season and repeated that Saturday, when they sustained no five-on-five pressure and scored only on power plays.
"I don't know how to explain it," said winger Wayne Simmonds, a preseason standout who took one shot and made a bad turnover. "We weren't hard on the boards. We didn't play hard."
If there were drills for handling adversity, the Kings could have benefited from those too. They handled it as badly as they handled Phoenix's speedy forwards.
"We went down one goal and started making a few errors on the defensive end, in the defensive zone. I think after that, things kind of started going downhill," said Doughty, who made two giveaways that led to goals and was in the penalty box on the Coyotes' first goal. "We were making more and more mistakes."
That bothered Murray most of all. "It's not the way to get yourself into the playoffs," he said. "Stuff is going to happen, shifts, plays, goals against. Adversity is staring you in the face every time you step onto the ice and you've got to be able to manage that the right way."
Brown out, but maybe not for long
Team captain Dustin Brown didn't skate because of what Murray said was a strained gluteal muscle. Brown had therapy and was expected to return to the ice today.
Phoenix had a 33-23 edge on faceoffs. Brown was the only King who won more than he lost, and he was 1-0. . . . The Kings were 0-2 to start last season after a home-and-home sequence against San Jose. Murray compared Saturday's loss to the 3-1 loss that launched last season. "A lot of deer-in-the-headlights, 'Wow what a good team they have.' We didn't know how to play," he said. "What you have to get back to, and what we did get back to all the time last year, is the checking part of the game. That always brings you back."