Kings' defensemen contribute to recent surge

The young defensive corps is more than all right, and coming from Coach Sutter that's saying a lot.

The kids are more than all right, and coming from Coach Darryl Sutter that's saying a lot.

Since losing veterans Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene to long-term injuries early this season, the Kings have had to rely on a generally young defense corps. The kids' collective performance has been on an upswing, a key factor in the Kings' 9-2 surge.

Jake Muzzin recorded a career-high three points in the Kings' 6-4 comeback victory over St. Louis on Tuesday; Keaton Ellerby has had an even or plus defensive rating in eight straight games; Slava Voynov has scored four points in his last two games and has had only one minus rating in his last nine games, and Drew Doughty — though still seeking his first goal — had two assists Tuesday and has had one negative defensive rating in his last six games.

"I thought the four kids [on Tuesday] were really, really good," said Sutter, who believes it takes young defensemen more time to mature and handle responsibility than it takes forwards. "I thought Muzzin, Ellerby, Voynov and Drew were all outstanding."

He isn't the only one to notice.

"It's great to see, for Muzz to step up like he did the last couple games," center Anze Kopitar said. "He's been playing really well for us and we're going to need him to play like this with Willie and Greenie out.

"You need somebody to step up and I think Slava and Muzz are going to continue to do that."

Muzzin scored the Kings' first and fourth goals Tuesday and assisted on Jeff Carter's game-winner while playing a season-high 23 minutes and six seconds. Muzzin was happy to have had a role in extending the Kings' home winning streak to six and establishing a strong identity at Staples Center.

"Be a tough team to play against," he said of the reputation the Kings want. "Every night we have to continue backing it up. [On Tuesday] we were down a couple goals and came back in the third. We fight, we stay with it and we ended up winning the game. It was huge for us."

-Helene Elliot

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