Alec Martinez returned to his first full practice on Friday after suffering… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
An hour or so on the ice with his teammates does not mean an immediate return to the lineup, but Kings defenseman Alec Martinez took another important step forward Friday.
Martinez, who suffered an upper-body injury Feb. 10 against the Blues, went through his first full practice since getting hurt at St. Louis. He accompanied the Kings to Vancouver. Still, previous comments by Kings Coach Darryl Sutter and Martinez indicated a return Saturday night against the Canucks would be premature.
"I'm feeling good now. It's just a matter of getting practices in," Martinez said. "Darryl hasn't told me anything yet, but I'm ready to go. It's obviously a coach's decision and I understand if he wants me to get a couple of practices in first. I felt good out there [Friday]. I'm just excited to be back, amongst the living."
Martinez, who has one goal and one assist in 11 games, was averaging nearly 19 minutes of ice time per game.
There is a certain sense of built-in isolation when it comes to being on injured reserve. Martinez has had company — fellow injured defensemen Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene — which made a difference when the Kings were on the road.
"It's a lot better than skating with a stopwatch and no pucks," Martinez said of Friday's practice. "I feel good. I can shoot the puck. I tested it out, throwing myself into the glass a couple of times. We had a little bit of battling, two-on-ones, and I felt good. Every day I noticed a big difference. Today, it was even better than it was two days ago."
Sutter's blunt honesty extended to one of the Kings' major corporate sponsors, McDonald's. His post-practice media sessions often take place in front of corporate signage, and it became a talking point when Sutter began talking about the eating habits of young players.
The corporate logo seemed to loom behind his shoulder.
"I haven't been in one of them since they cut off Alberta beef and that was quite a few years ago," said Sutter, a career rancher. "And I don't even like standing beside it [the logo]."
The Kings, who have won five straight games and seven of their last eight, are finding creative ways to grab points.
"Seasons are full of ups and downs," said forward Justin Williams. "At the start of the year, [people] saying we're struggling at the start of the year: 'Are you guys a fluke?' The ups and downs of a hockey season is what makes it a hockey season.
"You're not going to be your best all the time. You're going to go through stretches where you win five, six in a row, and you're going to go through stretches where you're not playing your greatest and it seems like the puck is hard to go in…. We're turning in the right direction."
Everything is magnified in a shortened season.
"Absolutely, little stretches of two, three games in a row where you're not on your game — it's devastating in the standings," Williams said. "You can see it every night. You win a game and you're in the playoffs and you lose a game and you're out. That's the way it is and that's the way it's going to be through a 48-game season."
KINGS AT VANCOUVER
When: 7 PST.
Where: Rogers Arena.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 1150.
Record vs. Canucks: 1-0-0.
Etc. Cory Schneider (5-4-1) is expected to start in goal for Vancouver.